NEW YORK -- Now that he has his championship, money no longer matters to Michael Strahan.
Well, maybe it matters a little bit.
Not enough, though, that it will be the deciding factor as Strahan mulls retirement or returning to the Super Bowl champion Giants for a 16th season.
"If that were the reason to come back last year, I wouldn't have," the star defensive end said Monday night. "That's secondary. I want to love to play."
Strahan was loving playing by the end of last season, when New York's defense -- particularly its pass rush -- sparked an incredible postseason run. The Giants had won seven straight away games during the season, then eliminated Tampa Bay, Dallas and Green Bay from the playoffs, all on the road. They capped their surge with a 17-14 victory over the previously undefeated Patriots in the Super Bowl.
"I'm very proud to be a part of that," Strahan said.
Last summer, it appeared Strahan might not be a part of anything with the Giants. He sat out training camp while mulling retirement. He says it was not a money ploy, simply uncertainty whether he still had the desire to play.
He'll go through the same process this year, but promises his decision won't take anywhere near so long. After a vacation in March, Strahan said he will weigh his options and most likely let the team know by mid-April, before the NFL draft, if he is coming back.
"I have to find out I want to do it. If I do, then I will do it," he said of returning to the only pro team's he's suited up with. "I don't want to be a used-to-be or a has-been."
Quitting now would be a great way to leave, just as John Elway and Jerome Bettis have done in the last decade. Strahan doesn't necessarily see it as a perfect departure.
"It's not romantic to me," he said. "I guess you couldn't do any better than ride off into the sunset as a champion and it could be a way I want to end it. There are days I want to hang up my helmet, and then there are days I would want to keep at it."
None of his teammates at the premiere screening of the Giants' 2007 season DVD would hold it against Strahan if he didn't return. Fellow end Osi Umenyiora, the team's only Pro Bowl player, at first laughed loudly when asked about Strahan's future.
"He's coming back. Don't listen to all that," Umenyiora said.
Copyright 2008 by The Associated Press.