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Odom makes it official

With an eye on "things associated with life rather than football,'' the Bucs tackle retires.

[Times photo: Toni L. Sandys]
Buccaneer tackle Jason Odom gets his helmet lifted off by Bronco linebacker during a 1999 game.

By BRUCE LOWITT

© St. Petersburg Times, published January 31, 2001


TAMPA -- Ultimately, the pain in Jason Odom's lower back got to be too much. He couldn't pick up Lauren, his 2 1/2-year-old daughter.

"As of late," the Bucs offensive tackle said, "I'd been worrying a lot more about trying to do things associated with life rather than football. This was a step that had to be taken."

photo
Odom
He took it Tuesday without hesitation. The 1996 fourth-round draft choice out of Florida, who spent all but the first three games of 1999 on the bench and all of the 2000 season on injured reserve with spinal disc problems, retired.

He told an impromptu news conference at One Buc Place that he would have liked to play another 6-8 years and that retiring "would have been tough if I felt fine. I'd be wondering if I could play." But the constant pain, he said, "makes this so much easier for me. It's over, and there is finality to it.

"It's been frustrating, I think more so in 1999 because that was the first time I had been away from football since I was 8 years old."

Odom, 26, played in 46 games with the Bucs, 41 as a starter, before injuring his back Sept. 26, 1999. He had surgery in December, aggravated the injury in training camp and went on injured reserve Sept. 2, the day before the 2000 season opener.

After the 1999 season, Odom signed an incentive-laden three-year, $10-million contract that included a $1-million signing bonus. The Bucs did not say what the salary-cap impact would be of their waiving him so he could retire.

But Odom indicated that the Bucs considered his condition when they negotiated the deal. "There were some things built into my contract ... to protect (the Bucs) and to protect myself if this did happen."

Odom said he was warming up before the third game of the 1999 season "and my lower back and butt area just kind of snapped. There was incredible, intense pain. ... I just kept it to myself. I went through that game praying after each play that I'd be able to play the next one."

The disc problems, coupled with the playing weight of 312 pounds he carried on his 6-foot-5 frame, "made every day a battle of sorts. My worst days are when my allergies kick in, because of the sneezing."

Odom said he has lost about 30 pounds and plans to drop 30 more. He might have more surgery, including spinal fusion, but not until he has exhausted all other avenues of treatment.

Coach Tony Dungy said in a statement released by the Bucs that Odom "played a big part in what we have accomplished over the last five years. We will miss him greatly."

-- Staff writer Roger Mills contributed to this report.

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