By Adam Hoge-
DES PLAINES (CBS) — Patrick Mannelly isn't ready to retire, but he's leaving that decision up to his body.
"As athletes, you think you can always play forever," Mannelly said Tuesday. "Luckily I've played a long time and I really want to listen to my body and see what happens. You want to play forever, your heart says you can play forever, your mind says you can play forever, but we'll see."
The Bears' long snapper of the past 16 years long snapper and current free agent turns 39 later this month and is almost through three months of a 4-6 month rehab from offseason hip surgery.
But injuries have taken their toll on Mannelly in the last few seasons, which is why retirement is a real possibility. He suffered a torn ACL in 2011 and battled through the hip issue last season, which is a big reason why he was presented with the Ed Block Courage Award on Tuesday at Maryville Academy in Des Plaines.
"The last two years for me have been a little more difficult than the other ones — overcoming an ACL and the hip issue — so for them to give me this award means a whole lot," he said.
After the ceremony Tuesday afternoon, Mannelly was set to fly to San Diego, where he will continue to rehab at EXOS, the same performance training company that works with many NFL Draft prospects. Bears backup quarterback Jordan Palmer has been working with Central Florida quarterback Blake Bortles at EXOS this offseason.
"I'm going in between the physical therapy part and the football-training part, and they're supposedly a good place for that," Mannelly said.
The long snapper doesn't have access to Halas Hall right now because he's a free agent, and he chose to go to EXOS because he wants to give his body a strong test to see if he can truly play another year.
"It's something where I would feel bad if I didn't give it everything I had and just half-assed it through the offseason," he said. "And I'm not going to do that because I truly want to put myself in a position where I get sore and hurt every day and see how much I enjoy it and see how I bounce back the next morning."
Meanwhile, the Bears are preparing for life without Mannelly, agreeing to terms with long snapper Chad Rempel on Monday. Rempel played for two years under Marc Trestman in Montreal and joins Brandon Hartson as the two long snappers currently on the roster.
Mannelly called the signing of Rempel a "smart move" and added: "Phil Emery should do that. I'll be 39 this year and don't know if I'll be back. They need to take care of their roster."
But despite the presence of two other long snappers on the roster, it sounds as if Mannelly has a spot on the team if he decides to come back.
"I think (Bears general manager Phil Emery) and I have a good relationship," he said. "We've been talking, and we'll see how things work as we go along."
It's important to note that because of Mannelly's veteran status, he would cost more than double the price of either Hartson or Rempel. The minimum salary for a player with zero years of service accrued is $420,000, while the minimum for Mannelly (10-plus years) would be $955,000. However, if Mannelly signs a minimum salary benefit deal with bonuses that don't exceed $65,000, his salary cap hit would be reduced to only $570,000.
Mannelly said the Bears haven't given him a specific deadline to make a decision, however, he does have somewhat of a personal timetable.
"We really haven't set anything in stone," he said. "I have some dates in my mind that I've set where I want to reach certain plateaus and goals to get ready for the season so we'll see."
And if the long snapper is able to return, he believes he would be able to participate in at least some of the OTAs, which begin the last week in May.
But even if he retires, don't expect Mannelly to disappear off the radar. He could certainly have a role in the local media or join the Bears organization in some capacity.
"Personnel is something that … I like evaluating talent," Mannelly said. "I think a lot of times as a long-snapper, we sit on a knee during practice and that's all we do, we come up with our own opinions and I think it's something I enjoy doing, something I'd possibly enjoy doing in the future."
Here's the one thing you can bet on, though: Mannelly won't be wearing a different team's jersey next year.
"It would be tough to put on another helmet for another team," he said.
For the longest-tenured player in Bears history, that's understandable.
Adam Hoge covers the Bears for CBSChicago.com and is a frequent contributor to 670 The Score. Follow him on Twitter at @AdamHoge.
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