Giants notebook

DE Michael Strahan is more than just familiar with Panthers' coach John Fox since Fox spent five years as the Giants defensive coordinator, said the Carolina defensive line is as good as advertised. "Those two ends," he said, referring to Julius Peppers and Michael Rucker, "could start for any team in this league. Except ours, of course."

Back in April of 2004, a week or so after the Giants pulled off the trade with San Diego that netted quarterback Eli Manning, the first overall pick in that year's draft, Pro Bowl defensive end Michael Strahan vented his displeasure.

Among other things he said was this: "I am too old to sit through the education of a young quarterback. I thought Kerry (Collins) was great for this team, a great quarterback with a rifle for an arm. I think the team ran out on me and the other players whose careers are winding down and who might have only one more chance to get that Super Bowl ring."

He admitted he was "furious" with the decision not only to make the deal for Manning but to grant Collins his wish and release him - Collins had said, "I'm out of here. I ain't no baby sitter."

That was then. Now, Strahan sings a different song.

"Well, at the time I believed in what I said, and I felt the way I said it," he explained. "But how could anyone know that Eli was going to be that good that fast? I think we have a solid chance with him going into the playoffs, but I still think that Kerry could have done it for us right now. Of course, Eli has a lot more upside and can look at a much longer career."

So Strahan made peace with the team and embraced Manning, and he has been rewarded with another - and totally unexpected - trip to the NFL postseason tournament.

"I have seen this kid (Manning) play way above his years," Strahan said. "He has learned almost every game, gotten better almost every game. Anyone who is more relaxed than Eli, well, you better check for a pulse. The kid never gets flustered."

Against the Carolina Panthers on Sunday, Manning probably will have more to do with the outcome than the great defensive ends on each side, more than the receiving acrobatics of Carolina's Steve Smith and the Giants' Plaxico Burress, more than the athleticism of Giants tight end Jeremy Shockey.

"It's going to be up to him," Strahan said, "and as a team, we are totally comfortable and confident with him at quarterback."

For his part, Manning just grinned.

"I don't show a lot of emotion," he said. "I don't carry a mistake over to the next play. I never was a screamer, a yeller. I just try to get to the next step, which means winning the game that is at hand."

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