- Jeff Dickerson, ESPN Staff Writer
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DES PLAINES, Ill. -- If Bears free-agent long snapper Patrick Mannelly does not return to Chicago for a franchise record 17th season, the team’s all-time leader in games played (245) would probably lean toward retirement.
That’s the scenario Mannelly laid out to reporters before being honored as the Bears’ 2013 Ed Block Courage Award winner at a luncheon held at Maryville Academy in suburban Des Plaines, Ill., an event attended by team matriarch Virginia McCaskey.
“It would be tough to put on another helmet for another team,” the Mannelly, 38, said.
The only member of the 1998 draft class that is still playing with their original team, Mannelly is almost three months into a four-to-six month rehabilitation process following offseason hip surgery.
Mannelly is scheduled to fly to California Tuesday night to continue his rehab work at EXOS in San Diego -- he is no longer under contract with the Bears and cannot use the facilities at Halas Hall -- but the veteran long snapper is undecided about his future.
"As athletes you always think you can play forever and I’ve been lucky to play for a long time," Mannelly said. "But I really want to listen to my body and see what happens. You always want to play forever. Your heart wants to play forever. Your mind wants to play forever. But we'll see.
"I would feel bad if I didn’t give it everything I had and [slacked] in the offseason. I’m not going to do that. I truly want to find out. I want to put myself in a position where I get sore again and feel hurt every day and see how much I enjoy it and how I bounce back the next morning.”
The Bears are expected to offer Mannelly a one-year contract if he decides to continue for another season, although a drop-dead date has not been set for Mannelly to make a final decision.
“We haven’t really set anything in stone for that,” Mannelly said. “I have some dates in my mind that I want to set to reach certain plateaus and goals to get ready for the season. I’ll leave those dates to me but we will see.”
If Mannelly’s recovery goes according to plan, he could theoretically return to the field when the Bears hold their organized team activities in late May and early June. But the Bears had to protect themselves at the position and agreed to terms on a three-year deal with former CFL long snapper Chad Rempel on Monday.
“It’s a smart move,” Mannelly said. “Phil Emery should do that. I’ll be 39 this year and I don’t know if I’m going to be back. They need to take care of their roster and that’s the most important thing.”
The Ed Block Courage Award is given out annually to one player on all 32 NFL teams who best exemplifies a commitment to sportsmanship and courage and serves as an inspiration in the locker room. Teammates vote for the award. Ed Block Courage Award winners symbolize professionalism, great strength and dedication, and are considered role models in the community.
The Ed Block Courage Award Foundation promotes the prevention of child abuse by raising awareness and assisting agencies that provide for the care and treatment of abused children.