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Alstott eyes another year, agent says
Ben Dogra said a decision isn't final, and the Bucs haven't indicated their feelings on the running back's return.
By STEPHEN F. HOLDER
Published February 9, 2006
TAMPA - The A-Train might make one more stop in Tampa Bay after all.
Weeks after the conclusion of a season many thought would be his last, Bucs fullback Mike Alstott is strongly considering a return to the NFL for another season, his agent said Wednesday.
Ben Dogra, one of Alstott's representatives, made it clear Alstott has not reached a final decision on his future. However, Dogra's "gut feeling" is that Alstott will attempt a comeback.
"He loves to play the game and (the Bucs) were so close last year," Dogra said. "Nothing's been decided, but I think he'd like to play."
The 32-year-old Alstott, arguably the most popular player in franchise history, hasn't spoken publicly about his future since the Bucs lost to Washington in the playoffs last month.
Running backs coach Art Valero on Wednesday shared sentiments similar to Dogra's based on a recent conversation with Alstott. Valero, who previously cited Alstott's improved understanding of his role as a reason he would consider a comeback, said, "I think Mike is always going to want to play. That's just how he is."
But here is where the story gets cloudy.
What remains to be seen is whether the Bucs have an interest in having Alstott back, and at what price. The team is yet to indicate where it stands, even though Alstott proved valuable down the stretch as an alternative to Rookie of the Year Cadillac Williams in short-yardage situations.
His game-winning two-point conversion leap against Washington on Nov. 13 was one of the season's highlights. Valero called it "the signature play of his career."
There are financial implications to Alstott returning too. He is scheduled to earn $2-million in base salary next season, though his cap number could be higher once any bonuses written into the contract are added. General manager Bruce Allen recently estimated the team could be as much as $19-million over the salary cap. The team would have to restructure multiple contracts in order to be in compliance by the start of the league calendar next month.
The Bucs also have been reluctant to commit to personnel decisions until more is known about the status of the collective bargaining agreement, which is still being negotiated. The outcome will have a significant impact on the way contracts are structured because 2006 is the final season for which a salary cap is in place.
Still, a decision on Alstott's future could be forthcoming. Dogra is hopeful the matter can be resolved during the NFL combine this month in Indianapolis, where he plans to meet with Allen.
"That's where we worked things out with Mike the last time," Dogra said.
Alstott likely will play for the Bucs or no one. He has said multiple times his home is now Tampa Bay - the only place he has ever played - and he does not wish to move his wife and three children.
Also, if Alstott decides to return and expresses that desire publicly, it likely would put significant pressure on the franchise to find a place for him. The Bucs took a public relations hit after releasing fan favorite John Lynch two years ago, and rejecting Alstott could be met with more disapproval.
The six-time Pro Bowl selection known for his punishing runs holds the franchise mark for touchdowns (68) and is second in team history with 4,917 rushing yards. Though he tallied just 302 total yards in 2005, Alstott was second on the team with seven touchdowns - his most since 2001. After a career-threatening neck injury in 2003, Alstott did not miss a game last season and felt encouraged by his and the team's success.
"I had the best time this year after going through two frustrating seasons," Alstott said at the end of the season. "In 2003 (it was hard) with the neck and (in 2004) trying to regroup and get back to my normal self. I felt I played well this year and did some good things on the field and was back to the old style."
ANOTHER TROJAN INTERVIEWS: The Bucs may raid the Southern Cal coaching staff for another assistant.
Defensive backs coach Greg Burns interviewed for the team's position of secondary coach Tuesday, emerging as a lead candidate to replace Mike Tomlin, who left to become the Vikings defensive coordinator.
Burns, 32, is the second USC assistant to interview with the Bucs in a week. Tampa Bay hired Trojans defensive line coach Jethro Franklin to replace Rod Marinelli, who took over as the Detroit Lions head coach.
Burns joined the Trojans in 2002 and presided over a secondary that helped USC win back-to-back national titles. Among his star pupils was Steelers safety Troy Polamalu.
Before going to USC, Burns coached with Valero at Louisville.
Times staff writer Rick Stroud contributed to this report.