Michael Irvin's locker at the Dallas Cowboys' practice facility is filled with personal belongings, football equipment, clothes, shoes and even a pair of Taco Bell Chihuahuas. About the only thing missing from the spot at Valley Ranch is the player himself.
It has been widely expected that Irvin would retire after a neck injury against Philadelphia on Oct. 10 left him temporarily paralyzed. He went on injured reserved Dec. 4 and did not play the rest of the season.
Irvin has since been told he has a genetic condition a narrow spinal cord that makes him more susceptible to serious injury if he takes another blow to the head or neck. Doctors have recommended he retire to prevent possible paralysis.
Although no official word has come from him, Cowboys players and coaches attending a quarterback school Tuesday talked about Irvin in the past tense instead of the present.
"He was a great, great football player for this team and this organization for a number of years, and you don't replace that," quarterback Troy Aikman said. "I don't know when Michael's going to make the decision, but whatever it is he's certainly going to be missed, no question about that."
Cowboys officials said they have heard nothing official from Irvin and the decision is up to him. Irvin does not have to make a retirement decision by next week when teams announce their June cuts.
Dallas already made plans for life without the 34-year-old star receiver when it traded for Joey Galloway in February.
"He's had a wonderful career and I respect his career, but he's making some very difficult decisions on what he's going to do and I don't think it would be appropriate for me to talk a whole lot about it," said Cowboys coach Dave Campo, who coached at the University of Miami from 1987-88 while Irvin was there. "It's a decision that's basically out of my hands. For me to talk about it until anything's official would be not a good idea."
As for when a decision will be made, no one really knows except Irvin, who was not at the Cowboys' minicamp in April nor either one of their quarterback schools this month.
"It's up to Michael to comment on that," said Irvin's agent, Steve Endicott. "Michael hasn't done anything yet or said anything yet."
Irvin has established himself over 12 seasons as one of the NFL's best receivers. His final catch last season was the 750th of his career, tying him for No. 10 in league history. He holds every significant receiving record for the Cowboys and is ninth in receiving yards in NFL history.
The 11th pick overall in the 1988 draft, Irvin signed a six-year contact extension worth $22 million last season before becoming a free agent.
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