Alstott undecided about his future
Published: Monday, January 9, 2006 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Monday, January 9, 2006 at 12:00 a.m.
TAMPA - Less than an hour after their 2005 season ended Saturday with a 17-10 NFC Wild-Card loss to Washington, Tampa Bay fullback Mike Alstott was quizzed about his future.
"It's hard to talk about my future after a loss like this," he said.
At some point in the next month, he'll sit down with his family and talk about it. So will the organization, not just with Alstott but with several longtime Bucs.
The team and the organization took several steps forward this year, rebounding from 7-9 and 5-11 seasons to go 11-5 and win the NFC South this year. Even though they lost in the first round of the playoffs, they created hope for the future.
The question is how many of the veteran Buccaneers will be part of that future.
Alstott admitted he has to sit down and think about his future. Linebacker Derrick Brooks said he plans on being back but he has a salary-cap figure of close to $9 million. Defensive end Simeon Rice also has a large salary cap number. Quarterback Chris Simms will be a restricted free agent and may get some offers that the Bucs will have to be ready to match, assuming they plan on keeping him as the starter.
There are also several players who played this year on one-year contracts that the team will need to re-sign. Prominent among them is nose tackle Chris Hovan.
And that means they'll have to make a decision on Brian Griese, the starter at the beginning of the year who was injured in the sixth game.
"At this point, it's never going to be the same," cornerback Ronde Barber said. "Things are going to change."
From the fans' perspective, the biggest may be Alstott's departure. He's due a $3-million roster bonus and a $2-million salary next year, making his cap number around $5 million.
When Alstott returned this year, he said from the first day of training camp that he didn't know if it would be for one more year or not. He was coming off of two injury-plagued seasons, and his role as a running back was reduced.
Still, he had a healthy, productive season.
"I had the best time this season," he said. "After two frustrating seasons, it felt good to be back to my old style of playing."
Still, about his future he added, "We'll discuss it, me and my family, at some point later."
Brooks is another one whose future with the Bucs isn't guaranteed. The team may ask Brooks to restructure his contract once again, and if he declines, they may face the decision of whether to live with his large contract or try to trade him or release him. It's the same situation with Rice.
"I have a contract. I expect to be here," Brooks said. "When the time comes to talk about that, we'll address it then, but I plan on being here. There's no place I'd rather play than Raymond James Stadium."
Brooks is well aware that the Bucs will have some new players next year, and some players on this year's team won't be back. That's just the nature of the NFL.
"You know the nature of this business," he said. "Not everybody that has a locker in here (in the locker room) will be here next year.
"I hope we get to keep as many as we can and make a run at it next year."
TAMPA - Mike Alstott walked out of the home locker room at Raymond James Stadium, not knowing whether he'll return as a member of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
The six-time Pro Bowl fullback - arguably the biggest fan favorite in team history - has three years left on his contract, but Saturday's 17-10 playoff loss to Washington may well have been his last game for the Bucs.
"It's a decision that's on me," said Alstott, who restructured his contract before this season and is scheduled to earn $2 million in 2006. "I'll talk to my family, my wife and everybody else."
The 10-year pro turned 32 last month, and his role has diminished in recent seasons because of injuries and coach Jon Gruden's preference to use him as a more traditional fullback who blocks and carries the ball mostly in short-yardage situations.
The team's career touchdown leader (68) and second-leading all-time rusher (4,917 yards) gained 80 yards on 34 attempts and scored six of his seven TDs on the ground this season - solid numbers considering the emergence of rookie Carnell "Cadillac" Williams as a featured back capable of handling a heavy workload.
Alstott missed most of 2003 with a career-threatening neck injury and returned in 2004 to rush for 230 yards and two TDs, and catch 29 passes for 202 yards. He had four carries for 15 yards and gained 7 yards on his only reception during the loss to the Redskins.
"I've had the best time this year. Going through two frustrating seasons, first in 2003, with the neck and then last year trying to regroup and get to my normal self," Alstott said. "I felt I played well this year and did some good things. It was back to the old style again. ... We'll discuss it between me and my family and figure out what is best."
Gruden declined to discuss the subject last week, saying he and the players were focused solely on trying to beat the Redskins in Tampa Bay's first playoff appearance since the Bucs won the Super Bowl three seasons ago.
Alstott, who returned to the field to play football with his son before leaving the stadium, said it was difficult to think about what lies ahead after a disappointing loss.
The Bucs held the Redskins to 120 yards total offense and saw an opportunity to tie the game slip away in the closing minutes when Edell Shepherd lost control of the ball when he came down in the end zone on what would have been a 35-yard TD reception.
"You don't want to think about it. It's hard enough to swallow the loss," Alstott said.
The 250-pound Alstott is one of three players remaining on the roster from the days when the team was the laughingstock of the league and wore hideous orange uniforms and helmets with a logo featuring a winking pirate on the sides.
He, along with Derrick Brooks, Warren Sapp and John Lynch, helped transform the franchise into one of the NFL's most successful over the past decade.
"This is where it all started," Alstott said. "Ten years, it's my life. ... It's a great place to play in front of these awesome fans for all of these years. I'd just like to thank everybody for their support for 10 great years."
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