Alstott's career could be over
Bucs fullback Mike Alstott, arguably the most popular player in franchise history, was placed on injured reserve today, ending his season and most likely his career.
A news conference with Alstott and general manager Bruce Allen was held at the team's facility at 2 p.m.
Alstott, 33, has been absent for the past three days from training camp in Lake Buena Vista. Coaches have said he had a 'sore body' and needed some rest. He was not expected to play in Friday's preseason opener against the New England Patriots.
Alstott has complained recently of a sore neck. He had surgery to replace a vertebrae in his neck in 2003.
The Bucs signed Jets free agent fullback B.J. Askew and apparently intend to make him the starter.
The 6-foot-1, 248-pound Alstott became known for his bruising style of running shortly after he was drafted in the second round by the Bucs in 1996. He helped transform the Bucs from the league's laughingstock to a perennial Super Bowl contender.
He was named to six straight Pro Bowls, a streak that ended following the 2002 season, his first under Gruden.
Alstott has seen his role reduced almost every season since the Bucs won Super Bowl XXXVII in Jan. 2003. He has never had more than 67 carries in a season since that world championship.
But Alstott, who was entering his 12th NFL season, opted to sign a 1-year, $1.5-million contract after contemplating retirement in the off-season.
Just a few weeks ago, Alstott said he still had a burning desire to play.
"When you are on a one year at a time contract, you never know what's going to happen,'' Alstott said after checking into the Celebration Hotel July 26.
"But after sitting back for a couple weeks, I knew that fire was still burning inside me, that I wanted to play football and I can play football.''
But Alstott was becoming more of a bystander as the team began to increase its use of Askew as the fullback during team drills.
Whether it was injury or inactivity, something changed Alstott's perspective.
"He worked as hard as he ever had this off-season,'' said former Bucs tight end Dave Moore.
Moore, who works as the color commentator for the Bucs radio network, said Alstott complained of a stiff neck recently.
"Every time he got up or turned around, he said his neck felt stiff,'' Moore said. "He didn't say too much about retiring or being hurt.''
According to Moore, Alstott's career was complete but he didn't want to go out after a 4-12 season.
"Just as a player, he's done it all,'' Moore said. ""He's gone to Pro Bowls, won a Super Bowl and got to start and finish his career in one city. For a guy to be a fullback and do what he's done, what else is there to prove?
"He came in Tony Dungy's first year and when you meet a guy at the Winghouse to get something to eat, every one of those guys see a piece of themselves. He's not going to break land speed records, not overly tall, but was always able to get the crowd pumped up and into the game. He was a good player to come in at a very important time in this franchise's history. We were able to turn it into a winner and he was a big reason for that.''
If he chooses to retire, Alstott will finish his career as the Bucs all-time leader in total touchdowns with 71 and in rushing touchdowns with 58. He is the team's second all-time leading rusher with 5,088 yards and third in scoring with 432 points, the first non-kicker surpass 400 points.
Two other members of the Bucs' Super Bowl championship team ended their careers with the Bucs this year. Linebacker Shelton Quarles retired and took a position as an advance scout with the club. Defensive end Simeon Rice was released.
(Times photo - Bill Serne. Click to enlarge.)