Strahan to have surgery; Washington also finished

EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- The New York Giants' chances of getting back to the playoffs took a major hit with the loss of All-Pro defensive end Michael Strahan for the rest of the season with a chest injury.

Strahan, the NFL's all-time single-season sacks leader, tore a pectoral muscle on his right side while attempting a tackle in the third quarter of Sunday's 28-21 loss to the Chicago Bears.

Not only did the Giants (5-3) lose the six-time Pro Bowl player and cornerstone of their defense, but they also lost the other starting defensive end, Keith Washington, for the season with a knee injury.

"Obviously Michael is an integral part of our defense, cornerback Will Allen said Monday. "He is the foundation of our defense. Some way, somehow, the rest of the guys on the field are going to have to find a way to pick it up."

Strahan is scheduled to have surgery Wednesday. He was not available for comment.

The losses of the defensive ends made the question of whether it was time for top draft pick Eli Manning to take over at quarterback for Kurt Warner insignificant Monday. For the record, Warner will start at Arizona on Sunday.

"We see what Michael means to this team every time we take the field," coach Tom Coughlin said. "Michael is the one guy on our defense that opposing offenses know they have to figure out a way to block if they are going to be successful."

Strahan was hurt early in the third quarter, reaching out to tackle Anthony Thomas. When the Bears running back cut inside, Strahan's right arm bent back. He walked off the field with his arm hanging down.

Coughlin called the injury a shame.

"On the field, our players look to him for inspiration," Coughlin added. "Actions inspire. What the average person doesn't see is what a leader Michael is in the locker room and in the weight room when nobody is watching."

Osi Umenyiora and Lance Legree finished the game at the defensive ends.

The Giants, looking to rebound from a 4-12 season, don't have many replacement options. Lorenzo Bromell, on the physically unable to perform list with a knee injury, is one. The former Oakland Raider has been practicing with the team in recent weeks.

"Like I told Osi last night, in the event that me and Stray are out, it's the young guys, they have to step forward," said Washington, who tore an anterior cruciate ligament in his left knee.

Strahan has not missed a game since sitting out against Dallas late in the 1995 season with a hamstring injury. He has played in 137 straight regular-season games, starting 136, including the last 95. The only missed start was midway through the 1998 season when back spasms prevented him from starting against Dallas, although he played much of the game.

Strahan has also started five playoffs games in that span. His 175 career games with the Giants is sixth in franchise history.

A 1993 second-round draft pick out of Texas Southern, Strahan leads all active NFL players with 118 sacks, which is 12th all-time. He had four sacks this season, including one against Craig Krenzel of the Bears for a 14-yard loss Sunday.

Strahan won the NFL Defensive Player of the Year award in 2001 with a single-season record 22½ sacks, breaking Mark Gastineau's record of 22 in 1984 with the New York Jets.

Strahan, who will be 33 in two weeks, led the NFL with 18½ sacks last season.

While a star, he has never taken the easy route. He has been a tireless worker on the field, in the weight room and in the video room, where he studies opponents and fellow defensive ends, looking for things to add to his repertoire.

"I'm afraid to fail," Strahan said in an interview with The Associated Press in October. "I think at one point, when you get to a certain level that you expect of yourself and everyone expects of you, you can't take a break.

"If you do, your game drops off, and it's noticed easier than if you are trying to build a career. So for me, I want to play at a certain level until I am tired of playing. At that point, it's time for me to quit," Strahan said.

The Giants also announced that backup safety Jack Brewer will be sidelined indefinitely after having surgery on his right leg Monday.

Brewer was kicked in the leg on Sunday and had swelling overnight. Surgery was performed to improve the circulation.