Sacramento Bee

Q&A with Scott Gragg
January 05, 2003
There's no play when it's time to play

By Jim Jenkins -- Bee Staff Writer

One of the key matchups in today's playoff game between the 49ers and the New York Giants at Candlestick Park will be between two individuals who know a lot about each other: San Francisco right tackle Scott Gragg and New York left defensive end Michael Strahan, who has 11 sacks this season, a year after setting an NFL record with 22 1/2.

But in the Sept. 5 season opener, won 16-13 by the visiting 49ers, the 6-foot-5, 275-pound Strahan went sackless, largely because of the 6-8, 315-pound Gragg, a former New York teammate. The two respect each other, but Gragg says the handshakes will have to wait until after the all-important rematch. Gragg won the Bobb McKittrick Award, given annually to the 49ers offensive lineman who best represents the courage, intensity and sacrifice displayed by the late 49ers offensive-line coach.

Q: Any special feeling playing against your old team again?

A: I think that I got over the reunion jitters the last time. But it's obviously an extra-special deal to go against a team I used to play with. Also, it's great because of the challenge I had with Strahan and the great competitor that he is. I enjoy those matchups. Any opportunity to go against the Michael Strahans of the world, I relish those because I know it's going to be a good, hard-fought battle.

Q: In facing Strahan, is familiarity an issue?

A: I didn't know if there would be familiarity. I didn't know what the change would be between practice and game tempo, because I practiced against him every day when I was with the Giants. What I realized is that there was a lot of familiarity. He gives 100 percent in practice, so I was seeing his best stuff in practice ... and I'm sure it'll be the same this week.

Q: Does the familiarity lead to an edge?

A: Maybe just a little bit more than guys who haven't gone against him, but I've been able to try things to see what works and what doesn't work. That's been an advantage, I think.

Q: Is it strange playing against Strahan, who typically hates who he's going against?

A: I respect him highly. We've had our times, our battles, then wars in practice, literally. But it's become a mutual respect. ... I try to have that same type of mentality of being an every-down player.

Q: What did Strahan say to you after the last game?

A: 'Great game, great battle.' It's just tough to describe. It's what you'd say to your teammate after the game. It's neat. My wife is close with his wife, Jean. Well, they don't talk anymore, but it's a strong relationship where guys are battling all the time and when it's over, it's over.

Q: What do you see in Strahan's game demeanor?

A: I don't see (hate) mentality in him. What I see is a very aggressive player who works very hard. I don't see him hating anyone. I don't see that in his interviews. I see an intensity that is rarely matched.

Q: Any reaction to center Jeremy Newberry's comments about kicking the Giants' rumps in this game?

A: That just sounds like Jeremy. It sounds like the confidence he has and the type of player he is. I respect that. As an offensive line and an offense, you have to have that confidence. You have to walk a little bit -- swagger -- and Jeremy is that for us.

Q: Importance of having played the Giants earlier?

A: Certainly, we're looking back at our last game to see what we did well and what we need to improve on, and play to our strengths. It's going to be a benefit that we've played them before.

Q: Are the Giants better because of the changes they've made?

A: I think they've jelled more as a team. I know there were a lot of unknowns with them, guys coming back from injuries and whether they were going to play (but) I think they've answered a lot of those questions.

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