Alstott Back; Quarles on the Way Out?
Longtime Bucs fullback Mike Alstott has agreed to terms on a contract with the Bucs, ensuring he'll return for a 12th season in Tampa Bay. Meanwhile, the Times has learned veteran linebacker Shelton Quarles is leaning toward retirement. More on that later.
Though Alstott has not signed the contract yet, all parties have agreed Alstott will play under a contract almost identical to the one he signed last season, for $1.5-million.
Alstott and his agents asked the Bucs to resolve Alstott's situation before the start of free agency, which begins this evening at 12:01 a.m. So, things clearly went down to the wire.
The timing of Alstott's return last season, when the sides agreed to a one-year contract worth about $1.5-million, was nearly identical. Alstott again is expected to be used in short-yardage situations and occasionally as a receiver out of the backfield.
The decision to bring back Alstott helps the Bucs avoid a likely public-relations disaster. Alstott is arguably most popular player in the franchise's three-decade history. Still, the Bucs may not be done with their fullback lineup. They are said to be pursuing another fullback in free agency, whose identity wasn't immediately clear.
Elsewhere, Quarles, made an appearance Thursday to talk about his upcoming USO tour to the Persian Gulf, but talk quickly turned to his health after playing through an injury-plagued 2006 season. The starting middle linebacker later divulged that he is undergoing a series of examinations by doctors to determine whether it is advisable for the 35-year-old to continue playing.
Quarles was not specific when pressed about the nature of his medical issues. But he did say the concerns were voiced only recently, and not by him. Quarles hopes to have a resolution "inside of a month," he said.
"I've never had a second thought about my ability to play football," he said. "It doesn't have anything to do with me. Trust me."
The Bucs have long envisioned backup Barrett Ruud as the future at middle linebacker. But for the past two seasons, Quarles has been able to outplay the second-round pick from Nebraska. Also, middle linebacker is one of the most critical and mental positions on the defense, with that player responsible for receiving play calls from the sideline and calling the defense in the huddle.
Quarles is entering the final season of his contract and is scheduled to earn $1.3-million in base salary for 2007.