EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- Lawrence Taylor of the New York Giants, who many regard as the best linebacker ever, yesterday announced this season will be his last in the NFL and vowed to end the year better than it has started.
Taylor, 33, has hinted since training camp that this would be his last season. In August, he said he was 95 percent sure what he would do and upped it to 96 percent in a recent Newsday interview. But he made it definite late yesterday while strolling to his car after practice.
Asked if this would indeed be his last season, Taylor said: "Yeah, definitely. I'm retiring. I think I've had enough."
Taylor's announcement came after a day of jolts to the Giants. Coach Ray Handley got in a tiff with photographers and it was announced that starting quarterback Phil Simms has bone chips in his elbow and definitely will miss the next game Sunday against St. Louis.
Asked if there was any scenario where he could see himself coming back next year, Taylor said: "At this point, no."
Yet, to make it clear he wasn't ready to fade into the sunset just yet, Taylor said he has a renewed commitment to help turn around the Giants' 1-3 season.
"I think I made a mistake coming back for another year," he said. "But I'm here. I think I'm going to have to change my attitude a little bit. I've been like, 'Hey, well it's my last year. Get it over with.' It's not really fun that way. I think I'm going to have to get more into the game."
Taylor, in his 12th season, has two sacks in four games and is tied for second on the team with 23 tackles. He's coming off a 1991 season in which he had a career-low seven sacks. Against the Los Angeles Raiders last Sunday, he was almost invisible when the Giants needed a big play to turn the momentum.
"With all the changes and stuff, this is a different team," Taylor said. "It almost feels sometimes that this is not my fight. But I do believe and I make a promise to the rest of the players that this will become my fight starting this week. I am not going to go down like this, and I'm not going to allow the team to go down like this and I promise I'm going to make a difference starting this week. We're going to start winning some games."
Meanwhile, a tough day between Handley and the media was punctuated by a confrontation between the coach and two photographers before the team's practice on the grass field outside Giants Stadium.
Normally, photographers are allowed to shoot the early practice when players go through stretching and warmup exercises. But when Joe Gigli of the Star-Ledger of Newark, N.J., and Keith Torrie of the New York Daily News approached the field, Gigli said Handley came over and said, "Listen, practice is closed. You have to leave."
The two photographers complied, but then Handley came toward them again while they were standing outside the field.
"I grabbed my camera hoping to get a shot of him closing the gate, instead he was coming right to me," Gigli said. "He grabbed my arm and pulled me away from the fence. He said again that practice was closed. Then he turned and walked back inside the gate. Later, he came back out demanding to see our credentials. He wanted to know who we were with. When we told him, he muttered 'Star-Ledger, Daily News,' and walked away."
Handley denied physically escorting Gigli away. "I never touched the person," Handley said. "If someone says I did, tell him to see me in my office."
Said Gigli, "He definitely went out of his way. I guess it's the only victory he could score, picking on a small guy."
The day began with Handley making a drastic change in his availability schedule to the media. Normally, he meets with the media for 30 minutes during practice days. On Wednesday, he said he would meet with the media for only 30 minutes on Mondays and 30 minutes on Fridays to speak with the press.
As a result, numerous television cameras and reporters expecting the usual noon session with Handley were unable to speak with the coach.
The quarterback situation may dwarf the coach's problems with the press.
According to X-rays, Simms will be out for at least a game with ligament sprain and loose bone chips in his right elbow. Jeff Hostetler, who is 5-0 in four starts and one relief appearance against the Cardinals, will start Sunday's game against Phoenix at Giants Stadium.
Simms was injured during the Giants' final possession of their 13-10 loss to the Los Angeles Raiders last Sunday when he was hit by defensive end Anthony Smith while throwing a pass. Raiders cornerback Terry McDaniel was called for defensive holding on the play, giving the Giants a first down.
Simms shook off the injury and completed 3 of 6 passes for 29 yards before the Giants punted the ball away for good with less than two minutes to play.
"We're going to evaluate him for a couple of days and see if the swelling goes down, then make a determination from there," Handley said after practice.
Asked if there was a possibility Simms would go on injured reserve, Handley said: "I guess anything's a possibility. We're just going to let it rest and then make a determination."
Simms has completed 60.6 percent of his passes and has an 83.3 quarterback rating this season.
Neither Simms nor Hostetler made themselves available for interviews. Hostetler avoided the media by having a ballboy move his car from the players' parking lot to another exit.