Tuggle, out of plans for Atlanta, retires

Published Aug. 29, 2001|Updated Sept. 10, 2005

Jessie Tuggle was supposed to be too small to make it in the NFL. He wasn't drafted by anyone and finally signed with the Falcons for a $500 bonus.

Fourteen years, five Pro Bowls and 1,830 tackles later, Tuggle retired Tuesday as one of the best linebackers of his generation.

"I gave everything I could give," said the 36-year-old, who spent his career with Atlanta. "I worked as hard as I possibly could work. Eventually, you know you're going to see it come to an end."

Tuggle, the NFL's active leading tackler, left open the slight possibility that he might join another team under the right circumstances. But he also made it clear he would prefer to be remembered for playing with only one organization after being told by coach Dan Reeves that he didn't fit into Atlanta's plans this season.

"I truly feel like I can still play," Tuggle said, his voice cracking with emotion. "But the question is: Can I still play at a very effective, high level? That is the part that no one will ever really know."

Tuggle hoped to come back for a 15th season, especially since he missed half of last season with a torn knee ligament, the first serious injury of his career.

Tuggle's left knee felt good enough to report for the start of training camp, but he fractured his right thumb in the early days of practice and missed the first three preseason games.

"This is tough for me. You always want to redeem yourself," Tuggle said. "I wanted to show myself that I could still play, and show my teammates I could still do it, and most of all to show the fans I could still do it."

Beginning in 1988, Tuggle had 12 consecutive seasons with more than 100 tackles, including a career-high 207 in 1991. During those dozen years, he missed only three of 192 games and earned five Pro Bowl berths.

A native of Griffin, Ga., Tuggle was content to play for the Falcons even when the team had just two winning records in his first 11 seasons.

"There were a lot of hard times," he said. "A lot of people criticized me. They asked me, "Why stay with a team like that? They'll never be a winner.' "

Tuggle's perseverance paid off in 1998, when the Falcons won the NFC championship and played in the Super Bowl.

Dolphins waive Heupel

DAVIE _ The Dolphins waived injured quarterback Josh Heupel.

Miami also waived injured receiver LaVell Boyd and linebacker Nate Hemsley.

Heupel, a sixth-round draft pick from national champion Oklahoma, has not practiced since spraining his left wrist Aug. 6 against the Rams in the Hall of Fame game. Because of the injury, he could return and be placed on injured reserve if he clears waivers. Even then, Miami likely would waive Heupel once he is healthy.

Coach Dave Wannstedt said he expects the left-hander will get another chance in the league.

"I know there was a lot of people that liked him going into the draft," Wannstedt said. "He's a great kid, he's intelligent, he's a winner. I think everybody knows that just because of the circumstances here, he never really got an opportunity to show what he might be able to do."

MOSS FINED: The league fined Vikings receiver Randy Moss $5,000 for wearing a cap on the sideline not approved by the league. He wore the cap in two preseason games. The league has an exclusive contract with Reebok. Moss has a personal contract with Nike.

EAGLES: Veterans Stadium workers raced the clock to convert the field from baseball to football in time for Thursday's preseason game against the Jets.

This will be the first game at the stadium since a botched conversion forced the cancellation of the Eagles-Ravens game Aug. 13.

Officials have since tweaked the drainage system and developed a plan to add a layer of asphalt beneath the turf.

Team spokesman Ron Howard said the team is monitoring the field conversion and is confident it will be done on time. All work must be complete by 9:30 this morning when the teams work out.