Tampa Bay announced on Friday that fullback Mike Alstott has a neck injury severe enough to warrant placing him on injured reserve for the 2007 season.
But does that end Alstott's playing career? Alstott didn't go quite that far in his press conference on Friday, even after being asked point blank if he had played his last professional football game.
"I don't know," Alstott said. "Right now I'm just trying to swallow this one. At a further day after reviewing the situation with everyone, I promise you will know. Just let me be right now and figure this out."
Before making that statement, however, Alstott broke down in tears when trying to describe life without football.
"As a professional football player, you just can't grasp the situation of not being able to put the helmet on and the jersey on," Alstott said.
But he never quite used the "R" word. Earlier Friday several news outlets were reporting that Alstott would announce his retirement. General Manager Bruce Allen put that to rest at the start of the news conference — at least for now.
"Mike is still a member of the team," Allen said.
Still, for the second time in five years, Alstott's season will end with a neck injury. After consulting with team physicians, the doctor that performed his 2003 neck surgery and his family, he made accepted the decision to go on the IR. Alstott said he also consulted with fullback that had suffered similar neck injuries, such as former Dallas fullback Daryl Johnston.
"Once you do something to that area of the body, there's more risk to that area for re-injury," Alstott said.
Alstott had two vertebrae fused together in 2003, but he said this injury relates to a new area and not the previous injury. He said more tests are needed to determine if the injury is career threatening.
Alstott had missed the last three days with what the Bucs called "soreness," but never specified the injury.
Alstott left the field at Raymond James Stadium last season in tears, hugging his wife and holding his children as he walked down the tunnel for what appeared to be the final time. He signed a one-year, $1.5 million contract with the Bucs during the offseason and declared himself ready to play at a July news conference on the eve of training camp.
"I was ready to go this year," Alstott said. "I was ready to play football."
Now, he won't play this year, and he may never play again.
Alstott owns the franchise record for total touchdowns (71) and rushing touchdowns (58). He is also second all-time in rushing yards with 5,088 yards. James Wilder has the top total with 5,957 yards.
Matthew Postins covers the Buccaneers for BucsBlitz.com and the Charlotte Sun-Herald in Port Charlotte, Fla. He is a member of the Pro Football Writers Association and has won national awards for his Buccaneers coverage from the PFWA, the National Newspaper Association and the Associated Press Sports Editors.