By DOUG TUCKER, AP Sports Writer
November 21, 2007
KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) -- What drove Priest Holmes out of the NFL is something most football players try to drive out of their thoughts.
They know it's a dangerous, violent endeavor that can leave them unable to walk. Holmes, after making one of the most improbable comebacks in NFL history, decided that as much as he loves the game, it wasn't worth the risk of a paralysis.
So the former Pro Bowl running back retired on Wednesday, thanking the Kansas City Chiefs and the NFL for all they had done.
"I had to look at the situation for what it is," he said, flanked by Kansas City Chiefs president Carl Peterson on one side and his three young sons on the other.
He had been out of the game for 22 months after sustaining head and neck injuries in a game in 2005. Then he called Peterson in June and told him he wanted to try a comeback.
He made it, too, after working so hard he earned the admiration of everyone who was watching. He made two starts in place of injured Larry Johnson the past two weeks. But last Sunday during a game at Indianapolis, he began to feel certain symptoms that doctors had warned him to watch for.
He refused to be specific, but during an often rambling series of answers said paralysis had been a possibility if he kept playing.
"Much of that is, I guess you could say, in the past," he said. "Just to know the symptoms were similar to the ones before. But to be technical, to go into medical terms, I wouldn't feel comfortable."
His teammates seemed unanimous in their respect for the man who holds team career records for yards rushing.
"It's probably the best decision that he could make for himself, for the rest of his life and for his family," said wide receiver Eddie Kennison.
"I try not to think about the dangers of the game. I understand what they are. I know they're there. And no man really wants to go out of the game with an injury. But we chose this job to take those risks. That's just part of it."
Tight end Tony Gonzalez had teamed with Holmes a few years ago when they were part of one of the NFL's most explosive offenses.
"I told him my thoughts are with him and what an unbelievable career he's had," Gonzalez said. "But you've got to be smart about this thing. Football is not the end-all, be-all. There's definitely life after football. Priest is a guy who's prepared himself for it."
Although he's down to third-team running back Kolby Smith with Johnson out again this week, Herm Edwards felt like thanking Holmes when the running back told him he was calling it quits.
"I thanked him for what he's done for this football team," Edwards said. "He's done something most players would not even attempt to do. He didn't have to do this. He came back knowing that first of all, he had to make the team. What he went through for three months trying to come back, that set a precedent for a lot of young players, to witness a guy like this who had accomplished everything he had accomplished in his career."
Peterson said Holmes had an agreement with the club that he would alert the Chiefs the moment he felt any danger of recurring injury to the head or neck.
"That was our agreement," he said, "that if that ever happens, to whatever degree, we needed to know about it. And he adhered to that and was great about it."
Holmes is the Chiefs' all-time rushing leader with 6,070 yards. He accumulated 8,172 yards rushing in 11 seasons with Baltimore and Kansas City.
"I have truly been blessed with the opportunity to play in the National Football League," he said. "I will be forever grateful to the Hunt family and the Chiefs organization for the opportunity to come to Kansas City, where the community embraced me from Day 1."
Holmes was the 2002 Offensive Player of the Year after rushing for 1,615 yards in just 14 games in 2002. In one season, he set a then-NFL record with 27 touchdowns. The mark has since been broken twice.
After taking himself out of the game last Sunday against the Colts in the third quarter, Holmes went back in for a few plays.
"As much as we try to do everything we could to prepare me, there's just one thing that seems like we couldn't technically prepare for," Holmes said.
"Now that we've seen that, now that I've had some symptoms, there's nothing really the helmet can do to provide that protection and to allow me to do my job effectively. And we all know this is a business of performance."
Regrets? Not a single one, he said.
"There's nothing I'll look back and say, `Maybe there's something I could have done different.' There's no other shoes I'd like to fill and I'm pretty sure there's no one who would like to fill my shoes."
Thursday, November 22, 2007
Posted by David Kaye at 9:08 AM