There was a moment this past winter when Chris Snee thought about the end.
Coming off a disappointing season without a playoff berth and grinding through it with a painful hip injury, the Giants guard owed it to himself, he thought, to at least consider the idea of retirement.
It was a very brief moment.
"I still think I can play this game at a high level," Snee said on the eve of his 10th NFL season. "Everyone goes through a natural decline as you get older, but I still think I'm one of the better guards in the league. That being said, I still love to play the game. When that goes away, then it will be time to walk away. But I still have that desire, and that's why it was really a quick decision."
Snee returns as the anchor of an offensive line that is quickly changing in terms of demographics.
It wasn't long ago that he was the kid, the high draft pick along for the ride with veterans such as Rich Seubert and Shaun O'Hara and Kareem McKenzie.
There still are some old salts in the trenches. David Baas, when he returns, will be in his ninth year. Kevin Boothe is entering his eighth. But when Snee looks to his right, he'll see a 23-year-old rookie, Justin Pugh.
Offensive lines usually are defined by A gaps, B gaps and C gaps. Between Snee and Pugh is a generation gap.
"You can tell that my role as a veteran lineman is they come to me with questions and things of that nature," Snee said, "but not 'hey, let's hang out on a Friday night.' "
Snee said he tries not to be "a grumpy veteran." He sees some old-soul signs from Pugh, the player he likely will be escorting through a rookie campaign. Snee is the last Giants offensive lineman to start a regular-season opener as a rookie, so he knows what Pugh is facing.
"As quickly as you can get out there and you're not in awe of the situation, the better off you'll be," Snee said. "That's where I'll come in and try to calm him down."
Said Pugh: "Having him out there next to me and being able to go over things, double-check, to be able to run things by him, so it's been great for me. I think it's going to mean a lot for me going down the road."
Snee said there was a point in the preseason against the Jets when things were not going well and Pugh looked "a little wide-eyed." He added, "I told him that as far as complexity and difficulty of defenses, that will be the most difficult in terms of creativity and different looks that he would face. He seemed kind of relieved at that point."
The Giants undoubtedly are relieved that Snee decided to return. He's still a very young man -- he turns 32 in January -- but in football years, he's much closer to the end of his impressive two-time Super Bowl-winning, four-time Pro Bowl-playing career than he is to its beginning.
Snee doesn't know how much longer he will play. His contract runs through 2014 but the final year is voidable, so he could be a free agent after this season. He's seen how the end came for his friends -- Seubert, O'Hara and McKenzie -- who thought they still had snaps left but had to be told to leave rather than make the decision themselves.
"I know having seen those guys come and go how difficult it is and how few people get to go out on their own terms," Snee said. "That's something that hopefully I'll be fortunate enough to do, but now is not the time to think about that or even worry about that . . . My mind-set is to get ready for Dallas and do my part to help this offense click and take the steps we need to take to be in the mix at the end of the year. The whole body breaking down and thoughts of what's next are not even in my mind right now."