NFC South: retirement
I had the luxury of covering Morgan for his first seven NFL seasons when he played for the Carolina Panthers and truly believe he's one of the most genuine people I've ever met.
That's why I put in a request to interview him Friday. Truth is, I didn't really want to interview him. I just wanted to say hello and catch up on old times. I never got the chance.
By Friday afternoon, coach Sean Payton announced that Morgan, who uncharacteristically never showed in the locker room, had strained a calf muscle and I just rolled my eyes and thought, "Here we go again.'' But, thankfully, Morgan put a stop to it Monday afternoon.
Agent Drew Rosenahus announced Morgan's retirement via his Twitter account.
I'm going to say the exact same thing I said just about a year ago when Morgan announced his retirement the first time. This is the best day of the offseason.
I say that because, despite all of Morgan's previous talk about how healthy he was and how much he wanted to return to football, this is best for him. And his family.
Yeah, Morgan had a right to play football if he wanted and he was the only one who could really make that decision. From a distance, it was easy to sit back and think about the fact he's had at least five concussions. And think about his long-term health, his wife and children. It was easy to think it was crazy for him to even step on a football field.
But none of that mattered as long as Morgan thought he should be playing football. Now, he sees it differently and that's a wonderful thing. It's always sad to see a great player walk away.
But, in this case, there's joy because Morgan was able to walk away before it was too late.
Posted by ESPN.com's Pat Yasinskas
Very quietly, a man who has been with the Buccaneers since their start, is leaving the franchise.
The team announced Tuesday that team physician Dr. Joe Diaco will retire this week after 33 seasons. Diaco has worked with the Bucs since 1976 and has been their chief physician since 1978.
"Dr. Diaco has been an important fixture in this organization since its inception, and he will be missed," general manager Mark Dominik said. "We are truly indebted to him for his tireless dedication over the last 33 years, and wish him all the best in retirement."
Diaco may not have been very visible to fans, but he was very much a part of this franchise. Around the league, a lot of team doctors may stop by practice once in a while and show up on game day. But Diaco was a very hands-on doctor and showed up for many of Tampa Bay's practices.
Posted by ESPN.com's Pat Yasinskas
This one's just a formality, but it's a good one for the Atlanta Falcons.
The team already had announced the retirement of offensive lineman Todd Weiner after last season. It was expected because Weiner had squeezed just about everything he could from his playing days and his body didn't have much left.
But, in a way, Weiner gave the Falcons something more Tuesday. He officially filed his retirement papers and was placed on the reserve/retired list. All that may not seem very significant, but it is. With Weiner officially retired, the Falcons now have cleared an additional $1.75 in salary-cap space.
It may not seem like a big deal because Weiner was a pretty ordinary player for 11 seasons. But sometimes ordinary is good. Weiner joined the Falcons in 2002 and was with Seattle from 1998 through 2001.
He started 118 of 152 career games and did some of his best work last season. Although Weiner played through a knee problem, he was a crucial contributor and played a bigger role than the Falcons ever expected. Weiner was supposed to spend last season as a backup to rookie left tackle Sam Baker and right tackle Tyson Clabo.
But injuries forced Weiner to start 11 games and he helped the Falcons rush for 2,443 yards (second in the league) and the ground game scored a franchise-record 23 touchdowns. Weiner also helped the offensive line protect rookie quarterback Matt Ryan quite nicely. Atlanta allowed a franchise-low 17 sacks last season.
"Todd Weiner epitomizes toughness, grit and everything a championship caliber football player should be," said Falcons head coach Mike Smith. "As good of a player as Todd was for the Falcons, he was an even better person in our community through a variety of highly publicized charitable endeavors working with children. He will be sorely missed by our football team on and off the field, but one thing is for certain -- Todd will always be a Falcon."
This move isn't going to make or break the Falcons, but it does leave a void. Weiner gave Atlanta's offensive line a lot of depth and that's now something the Falcons will have to add in the offseason.
|Craig Jones/Getty Images|
|John Lynch officially ended a decorated career with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.|
TAMPA, Fla. -- For more than an hour Monday, the memories -- and even a few tears -- flowed. Then a video highlight presentation covered all the familiar ground. And it ended the only way it could -- with John Lynch hoisting a Super Bowl trophy. That was only fitting because, on the surface, John Lynch is perfect.
As he walked away from a possible Hall of Fame football career (he once gave up a promising baseball career), everything looked perfect. His beautiful wife and four children sat in the front row as Lynch gave a speech most politicians could only dream of.
He's going to walk into the broadcast booth this weekend and, undoubtedly, be successful. Lynch wouldn't even rule out a future in politics, although he did laugh (rather lightly) at rumors that he's going to run for governor of Colorado.
But on the day Lynch officially retired from the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, we found out for the first time he's not perfect. Very close, but not quite.
Lynch, who didn't even seem to sweat when he played football, told two stories that never had been fully told before. The first involved former Tampa Bay coach Tony Dungy, who might be the only person in the NFL who appears more perfect than Lynch.
But, now, it looks like Lynch and Dungy each have lied at least once in their lives. Of course, Lynch tried to cushion the blow by first apologizing to the media for an incident in 1998 that was reported as an on-field injury.
It happened on the Saturday before a game as Lynch and defensive tackle Brad Culpepper were having an impromptu kicking contest. Culpepper made a field goal from 30 yards and Lynch followed. Culpepper nailed another field goal from 40 and Lynch did the same.
After Culpepper hit from 50, Lynch blew out his quadriceps muscle. Dungy wasn't happy that his starting strong safety wouldn't be a factor.
"Coach Dungy was nice enough to say to the media that John Lynch pulled his quad on the first play of the game,'' Lynch said.
With one skeleton out of the closet, Lynch released another. He told a story that had been sort of known, but never truly detailed, for many years. It's a lesson in the chemistry of a football team and a lesson in life.
There haven't been two more contrasting personalities in the history of the Bucs than Lynch and defensive tackle Warren Sapp. Lynch was born to parents who owned radio and television stations throughout Southern California. Lynch grew up in Del Mar, Calif., which is as posh as the name suggests.
Sapp grew up in hard-scrabble Apopka, Fla., which is even more desolate than the name might suggest. As polished and tame as Lynch always was off the field, Sapp was the exact opposite and the two clashed.
Back in the mid-1990s, some people who flew on team flights used to tell stories of Sapp relentlessly picking on Lynch. Sapp called Lynch things like "pretty boy'' and "rich guy'' and often made mention of a silver spoon.
It got ugly on a flight in 1996 as Lynch tired of the taunts.
"I think (Trent) Dilfer and (Derrick) Brooks were there to catch my right arm,'' Lynch said.
The stories at the time suggested Lynch's fist did make contact with Sapp's face, but the details really don't matter now.
"After that, Warren said, 'All right, you can go to war with me','' Lynch said.
Lynch and Sapp grew close after that and they (along with Brooks, Dungy, Dilfer, Warrick Dunn, Mike Alstott and Ronde Barber) helped turn one of the league's worst franchises into one of its best.
So there you have it. Lynch once lied and once threw a punch. You knew there had to be a flaw there somewhere. But that's it. Nine Pro Bowls, 26 interceptions, dozens -- maybe hundreds -- of bone-jarring hits. A perfect career and a perfect life.
"In John Lynch, we had someone with Hall of Fame character,'' said Bucs vice president Joel Glazer "We had someone with Hall of Fame dedication. We had someone who had Hall of Fame involvement in the community. On the field, we had someone, who week in and week out, had Hall of Fame play.''
Is Lynch a Hall of Famer? That's a debate for another time -- he won't be eligible for five years.
But, as you looked around the auditorium at One Buccaneer Place, there was no doubt that Lynch, who left the team bitterly in 2004, had a huge impact on the Bucs and Tampa. Lining the chairs and the walls were Bucs past and present, from Doug Williams to Brooks, Dunn and Barber. There was Tampa sports royalty, from Monsignor Laurence Higgins ("the sports priest'') to Tom McEwen, the legendary former sports editor of The Tampa Tribune and an instrumental figure in Tampa getting a franchise in 1976.
Sapp couldn't make it because of a commitment with "Dancing With the Stars'', but even current coach Jon Gruden and general manager Bruce Allen, the duo who ran Lynch out of town, showed up and smiled. (For the record, Allen seemed to be the only person in the room or in the league that Lynch didn't thank.)
Who else could have pulled this collection together and made it one of the most special days in franchise history? Maybe Alstott, maybe Brooks, but that's it.
Throughout his playing days, Lynch never was one to pat himself on the back. He finally did just a little of that near the end of his speech.
"I'm proud of the way I played my career,'' Lynch said.
Lynch should be proud. He more than earned that right.
Posted by ESPN.com's Pat Yasinskas
TAMPA, Fla. -- In the early to mid-1990s, being a fan of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers was no fun. Covering them as a sports writer, where it's not supposed to matter if the team you cover wins or loses, was pure drudgery.
That's because the Bucs were beyond bad. Walking into the locker room in those days was miserable. First off, the locker room was in the old One Buc Place, where part of the weight room was outside on a porch and it wasn't uncommon to see rats in the hallways.
There weren't many smiles out at One Buc Place in those days, except from my co-worker and mentor at The Tampa Tribune, the great Nick Pugliese, who always was in a good mood.
And John Lynch.
Back in those days, Lynch was a breathe of fresh air in a place that desperately needed it. In a very bad situation, the young safety brought class and dignity. He didn't play a lot under Wyche and Lynch even admitted he was having doubts about his decision to give up a career in baseball.