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Thursday, October 30, 2003
Updated: October 31, 9:35 AM ET
Strahan watching Ellis closely

ESPN

EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- New York Giants defensive end Michael Strahan seems flattered that New York Jets counterpart Shaun Ellis has been imitating him.

Strahan is also concerned. He isn't thrilled Ellis is threatening his single-season sack record, set only two years ago.

Through seven games, Ellis leads the league with nine, one more than Strahan, who plays left end for the Giants.

"Tell him he better stop because he better not beat that 22{," Strahan said Thursday in a tone that made it tough to tell whether he was serious.

When pressed, Strahan relented.

"It's not mine," Strahan said. "It is just kind of there for somebody else to come along and break one day. I'm pretty sure it won't last forever. No record really ever does. So whether it's this year, the year after, twenty years -- somebody will do it."

Strahan might even break his own record now that he is finally feeling better. He broke the little toe on his right foot early in training camp and didn't play in the preseason games. He didn't feel 100 percent until the Giants (3-4) got back from their bye week at the start of this month.

In the last four games, the 11-year veteran has seven sacks, including six in the last three games.

"It was tough, it bothered me," Strahan said of the toe. "Now I can do every thing that I could do before and not have to worry about getting up on the toe and after the play, kind of standing there and hoping the pain goes away."

Linebacker Brandon Short said Strahan has really stepped up his game with the Giants struggling.

"In a game, it's almost crazy, every team is sending a back to his side or a tight end and he is still making plays," Short said.

Ellis, who has had at least a half-sack in 10 straight games, enjoys watching Strahan.

"He's one of the best there is, a guy who is strong against the run and the pass," said Ellis, a fourth-year player who had only nine sacks the last two seasons combined. "He plays the way you want to play the position."

Ellis even found a way to make Strahan cringe, noting that he has been watching him since high school.

When he heard that, the 31-year-old Strahan made a couple of quips about being old.

"When I am watching him play it reminds me a lot of how I play," Strahan said. "He is physical. He's probably faster than I am, but he is very physical and he is very good with his technique. I have definitely been keeping my eye on him because he started out hot and he has been consistent."

Ellis will be paired against Ian Allen, who was just reinserted back in the starting lineup. Strahan will go against Kareem McKenzie, who has been the Jets' starting right tackle the last two seasons.

Strahan said there is no competition between him and Ellis. He is more concerned about how the Giants perform coming off a 29-17 win over Minnesota that snapped a three-game losing streak.

"I think we still have a long way to go," Strahan said. "Just eliminating mistakes is one of the biggest things for us, and if we can consistently eliminate all the mistakes and turnovers, then I will start to believe that we can be contenders."