Irvin Quiet About Future


Michael Irvin is being uncharacteristically quiet about his football future.

Rumors persist that the star receiver, sidelined by a neck injury five weeks ago, has caught his last pass. Irvin isn't saying, and the Dallas Cowboys aren't asking.

Team owner Jerry Jones and coach Chan Gailey each spoke with Irvin over the weekend, but neither pressed him to decide when or if he plans to return. They didn't even ask when he plans to decide.

"He has as much time as he needs to make a decision," Jones said Tuesday. "This is about a career. This is about loyalty. This is about a lot of things."

Jones added that Irvin is still gathering the information he needs to decide whether to retire, return or postpone a decision until next year.

"I think that information should come real soon, possibly in the next few days, maybe 10 days," Jones said. "He's continuing to consult and to revisit some of the same people who've evaluated him."

Gailey and Irvin met before the Cowboys' 27-13 victory over Green Bay on Sunday.

"I sat down with him and had a very serious discussion about where he is," Gailey said. "Nothing definitive came out of his mouth or my mouth. We just discussed it."

"Everyone is trying to make sure Michael understands exactly how we feel and where we are with it, and we're trying to get a feel for where Michael is with it."

Irvin was temporarily paralyzed after awkwardly slamming his head into the ground following a catch Oct. 10 in Philadelphia. Tests revealed that he sustained a herniated disc, but they also detected that Irvin was born with a narrow spinal cord. That genetic condition has become his primary concern because it puts him at a much higher risk of serious injury if he takes another blow to the head or neck.

In 1986, Green Bay cornerback Tim Lewis and Houston linebacker Frank Bush both retired after learning they had the same condition, which is called cervical stenosis.

That decision was an easy one for Lewis, a former Texas A&M star who is now an assistant coach with Pittsburgh.

"It was right for me to walk away after being told what I was told about possibly injuring myself more severely if I was hurt again," Lewis said. "I wish him well. I hope Michael finds the right decision for him and his family."

Irvin has known about the genetic condition since shortly after the injury. It wasn't made public until Jones revealed it two weeks ago.

Irvin hasn't spoken publicly since then. His agent, Steve Endicott, did not return a call to The Associated Press on Tuesday.

Over 12 seasons, Irvin established himself as the greatest receiver in Cowboys history and one of the NFL's best ever. His final catch was the 750t of his career, tying him for No. 9 in league history.

If Irvin is going to sit out the remaining seven games, the Cowboys (5-4) would be best off putting him on injured reserve to free a spot on their 53-man roster. They could use the room to add defensive backs to help supplement a tattered crew.

Gailey said the team would like to know Irvin's stance by early December.

"I think it would help everyone to try to know where this thing is going," Gailey said. "Because if he is going to play and get back into it, he really needs to start running and jogging and getting into shape. If he's not, then that is a situation that might help us as far as determining roster spots."

Jones said he understands Gailey's concern, but that he won't rush Irvin.

"I do not want the timing of what we need on the roster to in any way affect his decision," Jones said.

The Cowboys don't need Irvin's permission to put him on IR. However, Gailey said the team will let him make the call.

"He's got to decide whether he wants to play again," Gailey said. "I don't know what is in his mind completely right now. But he's got a decision to make."

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