from today's paper:
Strahan gets one to tackle
Confronts reporter over his own words
BY RALPH VACCHIANO
DAILY NEWS SPORTS WRITER
The doors to the Giants' locker room were still in place yesterday. Behind them, though, everything appeared to be coming unhinged.
In one bizarre hour - strange even by the standards the Giants have set over the past week - Tom Coughlin's crew unraveled once again. It started when Plaxico Burress delivered a subtle rip of teammate Michael Strahan, and ended with Strahan delivering a not-so-subtle rant at the media in general while trying to bully a female reporter from ESPN.
Asked about his comments regarding Burress, Strahan demanded that ESPN's Kelly Naqi step to the front of a media pack and "look me in the eye."
And the cause of all the turmoil was Strahan's own words during his regular spot on WFAN on Monday, when he appeared to chastise Burress for quitting on a play during Sunday's Music City Meltdown. When Burress heard that Strahan had said, "You can't give up and you can't quit, because you're not quitting on yourself, you're quitting on us, you're quitting on everybody," it was enough to trigger the latest round of discontent from the Bickering Blue.
"Wow, that's tough for a teammate to come out and say that about you," Burress said after he was read Strahan's comments, word for word, by Naqi. "But if that's the way he feels, that's the way he feels. I'll talk to him about that personally. I'm not going to get into a pushing or shoving match with you guys. I'll just talk to him personally because that's the type of person I am. I wouldn't go on TV or radio and criticize my teammates.
"If that's the way he feels, hey, that's sad."
That response was quickly relayed to Strahan by a member of the Giants' PR staff, and a few minutes later, the defensive end - who usually speaks to the media only on Thursdays - burst into the locker room and began his tirade. First, he singled out Naqi and berated her for not asking questions "in the appropriate manner" and, beckoning her with his index finger, loudly ordered her to come forward and "look me in the eye."
"I know you're going to ask it in a way that there's more division and more of a negative way than what it was, so come here, I want to see your face," Strahan said. "Are you a responsible journalist? Look me in the eye and ask me this question, please, the way that you want to ask it. Come on. Look a man in the eye before you try to kill him or make up something."
Eventually, Strahan was asked if he had spoken to Burress. Strahan said he had, even though Burress insisted he had not. Strahan added, "Do you think one play by Plaxico lost us the game? No."
Then he redirected his rage toward the media at large. "If you want to come here with the negative, you're coming to the wrong guy, because I'm not a negative guy," said Strahan, who is recovering from a sprained foot. "I don't kill my teammates. I'm a man and I talk to my teammates. So if you're going to talk to me, don't stand in the back behind 10 other people. You come here and look me in the eye. And if you're going to ask Plaxico about something, you ask him in the appropriate way, not the negative way so it seems like I'm attacking my teammates, because I don't do that.
"(The WFAN comments are) being portrayed that way because that's the way you guys portray them. We've lost three games in a row. You're not going to do anything positive. That's not how you guys operate. You don't sell papers by being positive. OK? You just don't - especially when a team has lost three games in a row."
Strahan's rage, of course, came seven days after Tiki Barber criticized the Giants' play-calling, six days after it was revealed that Barber was reprimanded by Coughlin, five days after Coughlin fired back at Barber, and three days after the Giants (6-5) blew a 21-point, fourth-quarter lead in Tennessee.
However, despite the turmoil, yesterday actually began with a positively chipper Coughlin press conference. The coach seemed eager and thrilled to announce that defensive end Osi Umenyiora, linebacker Brandon Short and cornerback Sam Madison all might return for Sunday's showdown with the Dallas Cowboys. When asked about Strahan's WFAN rant, Coughlin did say he was "aware that a statement had been made," but added "What I'm trying to do right now, quite frankly, is pull everybody together and encourage, if you will."
Little did Coughlin know how difficult that would be, and what was simmering behind his locker-room doors.
Originally published on November 30, 2006
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