Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Second Neck Injury Forces Alstott to IR

Tampa Bay's iconic fullback will miss the 2007 season thanks to a neck injury, it was announced Thursday, but he has not yet decided about his NFL future in 2008 and beyond

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FB Mike Alstott will miss the 2007 season but vows to remain around the team during the year

He is the Tampa Bay Buccaneers' all-time leading touchdown producer, second-leading rusher, third-leading receiver and just maybe the most popular player in franchise history, and he was supposed to be back for at least one more season in 2007.

Instead, fullback Mike Alstott will miss the upcoming campaign due to a neck injury that has forced the Buccaneers to place him on injured reserve. That announcement was made on Thursday afternoon at the Bucs' headquarters in Tampa, where the team has returned in order to play its preseason opener against New England on Friday night.

Alstott last missed a significant amount of playing time in 2003, when a worrisome neck injury knocked him out after four games and led to concerns that his NFL career was in jeopardy. Instead, Alstott worked hard to return from that injury and, after a modest rebound campaign in 2004, he turned in two very impactful seasons in 2005 and 2006. As for his latest neck injury and his current NFL status, Alstott has not yet decided whether he will attempt to extend his career in 2008 and beyond.

Whether or not it has another chapter or two, Alstott's career has been nothing short of magnificent. His career totals include 5,088 rushing yards, 305 receptions, 71 total touchdowns and an additional seven scores in the postseason. During the Buccaneers' 2002 run to the Super Bowl XXXVII title, Alstott rushed for 100 yards and four touchdowns, including one in the Super Bowl win over Oakland. He is only the second player in franchise history to pass the 5,000-yard rushing mark, and he reached that total even though he has essentially never been the team's lone primary running back.

Moreover, Alstott's career to this point has even eclipsed those impressive raw numbers. He is, to state the obvious, a fan favorite in the Bay area. He earned that position early in his career with a seemingly endless string of highlight-reel runs, and even later in his career he has provided a series of memorable moments, such as his game-winning two-point conversion against Washington in 2005. Suffice it to say that Alstott's eventual retirement, whether it be this season or after another successful return from IR, will be feted by a riveting highlight video.

For their part, the Buccaneers are not left bare at the fullback position, even if they have lost one of the most effective short-yardage ballcarriers in team history. B.J. Askew, the former New York Jet signed as a free agent this past offseason, is a willing lead blocker and a fine receiver out of the backfield. The team also has such versatile backs as Earnest Graham and Michael Pittman and can also make use of their talented tight end corps in a variety of H-back capacities.

Still, Thursday's news, which came on the eve of the team's 2007 preseason opener against New England, is disappointing for Buccaneer fans, who have become used to the sight of Alstott running over opposing defenders. Such highlights won't be on display at Raymond James Stadium in 2007; whether or not there is another chapter to Alstott's remarkable career remains to be decided.

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