The end for Quarles?
Has longtime middle linebacker Shelton Quarles played his final game for the Bucs?
The latest rumors as we've heard them: The 10-year veteran and former Pro Bowler was told during a recent meeting with general manager Bruce Allen at Avila Golf Club that Quarles is not a part of the team's plans for 2007. It remains to be seen whether Quarles, who will turn 36 in September, will retire or be released.
But the Times has confirmed the Bucs bought themselves some time when Quarles agreed to move the due date of a roster bonus (believed to be in the $1-million range) from April 1 to May 1, in part because Quarles wanted to obtain additional medical opinions on his health. That also allows the Bucs to make a final determination on Quarles after the draft, when they will have a better grasp on the makeup of the roster.
Quarles has said for weeks he might be forced to retire because of a physical ailment, which we've since learned is a recurring knee condition. But Quarles has remained adamant, making public statements about his desire to continue playing though not offering more specific details. He said recently the decision on his future will not be made by him, and Quarles continues to stress that he is physically capable of playing.
Quarles has historically had near perfect attendance in the team's offseason program in past years but has been conspicuously absent for workouts, meetings and rehab since the program began last month. Teammates say he has not been a topic of discussion among coaches, and the team proceeded this week during three days of full-squad voluntary workouts as if backup middle linebacker Barrett Ruud is the unquestioned starter.
Quarles could not be reached for comment. His agent, Jim Steiner, declined to discuss the details of conversations between the player and Allen, calling them "confidential." Earlier this week, Allen told the Times, "There were only two people in that meeting. I don't talk about things I discuss with players in meetings."
The situation is a thorny one for the organization, which is faced with having to part ways with one of the fixtures of its defense. Though it is a difficult decision, the Bucs could free up approximately $3-million in cap space without Quarles on the roster. Also, Quarles' retirement would finally allow Ruud, a 2005 second-round pick, to get substantial playing time.