Mike Alstott Press Conference

(Opening comments) 
"Being out of the realm of things as far as playing football, the locker room, being on the field and traveling with the team—just the things that make football a really special time. My particular injury where I have a herniated disc that I am going to have to have surgery on and there are a lot of questions that people have for me like how did I come to this situation- over the last two weeks I have had some problems with my neck – why I played Monday night. I saw a specialist, and I got the opinions of other people who helped my confidence to get on the field. This decision was mine, all mine and to go out there and want to play. It's a situation where I had to find out either way if I took Monday night off and came back and played for Washington - then it most likely would have happened then—I had to find out. I believe that the herniated disc is a disc that I'm finding some of the feelings that I had in my neck really weren't isolated on the herniated disc. A lot of people tell you that you have a herniated disc, and it's difficult. But it wasn't an older herniated disc, and we don't know if it was, over time, maybe from 1996 to 2003, that it was injured more than once. And with all the steps that I was doing to find out and pinpoint my situation and find out what was wrong with me and why I was having pain and it was pretty much not in the realm of my herniated disc as far as my symptoms. So that's what gave me the confidence to go out and play football Monday night and have to make a decision because if I did all these tests and didn't have a herniated disc, I would have been out there playing anyway with my symptoms because I didn't have any threat of being paralyzed in that respect, no greater odds that any other player on the field. It's a situation where, yes I have to have surgery on the herniated disc because I unfortunately did go out there and get hit in a particular way. The feeling wasn't right, and I did not feel comfortable to keep playing and that's why I was on IR (injured reserve). With the future of Mike Alstott, I'm going to have surgery, and the great thing about this is that I am going to be back in a uniform playing for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and being on the field again in the future and if anything positive can come out of this it's that. But the emotional part about this right now is that I can't be there right now and it's just hard because, obviously, the passion and love I have for the game all my life and it's temporarily taken away. But I'm just an emotional guy, and I love what I do, obviously. I'll be back. You will see Mike Alstott in a Buccaneers uniform. I bet you that because there is no rhyme or reason why I won't be here." 

(On whether or not he did further damage to his neck by playing Monday night) 
"I left the stadium to have further examinations all night until five in the morning to see if I had previous tests done, everything you can possibly think of to find out beforehand over the last two weeks and then we did further tests to see if I further injured it, and no, I didn't. But there was obviously feeling throughout the game that was not right and made me not come back in the game." 

(On when he is going to have surgery) 
"We are going to go through an evaluation process pretty much immediately with specialists all over the country to figure out which is the best for me and my family to discuss with my doctors, my trainers and find out what's the best procedure for me, and we'll go from there. I can't tell you exactly when surgery will be, but I want to get on this as soon as possible." 

(On whether he was told he would need surgery at the time of his first examination) 
"This is a bazaar situation because the symptoms were not directly toward the herniated disc. There were no symptoms whatsoever that a herniated disc was causing some of my uncomfortable feeling, so no (they did not think surgery was necessary right away). We were trying to figure out the problem at hand. Obviously, (we were) cautious about a herniated disc, everybody is always." 

(On how long he has had problems with his neck) 
"Since Carolina, but different symptoms. Obviously, (I had) muscular symptoms between Carolina and Atlanta because you only have four or five days to heal. So, I was just feeling a sore neck and stuff like that, and when I warmed up it felt better. Then after the two week process when I did not have any contact because of the bye week, the muscles calmed down, and then I felt some other pain." 

(On what the symptoms were after the bye week when the muscle soreness lessened) 
"Off the top of my head, I felt the compression. I dropped to my knees. I just felt tingling in my arms. It was scary. It really was." 

(On the play when he re-aggravated his neck during the Colts game) 
"Actually, I was away from the play. Away from the play and I went to the right and the play went back to the left. It was supposed to go to the right, but it had been back to the left. I just put my head down. I can't remember who I got hit by. I was trying to chip, I believe on a defensive end or someone, and everybody came down. I believe I tried to chip and hit my own guy. But I had my head down and got that compression feeling and weakness in my body for a minute. (I) just had some sensations in my arms." 

(On after he hurt his neck Monday night) 
"I came off the field, went into the locker room, I guess there was about five minutes to go. We were up by 21 points, and that's when all the other things happened throughout the game. I watched it on t.v." 

(On the information he received Monday before deciding to play) 
"What I learned was that I had no further risks of being paralyzed than anybody else on the football field, even with my herniated disc. I evaluated myself with everybody's opinion, every doctor and everything. Obviously that was the scariest point for me, but everybody's concern was, ‘Well, you can't really move your neck in an extension way.' The thing was, when I warmed up on the field, even in practice, without any contact I felt comfortable. I practiced all week pretty much besides a couple of walkthroughs. Even in pre-game warm-up I felt good. I was moving my neck pretty much in every which way, and I felt good. I was comfortable about the herniated disc because I had no symptoms whatsoever. It (the herniated disc) was old. We don't know how long it was even in there. It was an incidental finding just through tests they were trying to figure out for the pain I was having in my neck." 

(On what was going through his mind when the tingling in his arms occurred) 
"It's hard to explain. I had feeling in my legs, but as I got hit and it compressed I got weak for a second and went to my knees. I jumped back up in a heartbeat. It wasn't more than a split second, I jumped back up. I had some sensations down my arms, and I said, ‘That's all.' That's all I needed. I knew it didn't happen at that particular point. It might have happened, even the pain I was feeling in my neck, the different symptoms, it might have happened in the Washington game. It might have happened three games down the line, but I had to find out in a way that I would not be permanently damaged." 

(On how long they knew about his neck injury) 
"We knew about it for a couple of weeks in. obviously it's a concern, but the thing was so bizarre it was not compressing on the spinal cord. Even right now the spinal cord was not damaged. I believe when I got compressed it obviously hit the nerves around the vertebrate coming off, and that's what gave me my sensations. I did not have any chance with a lateral hernia for any spinal cord damage. I really have, with all the x-rays and films and stuff, I have a wide canal which is for my spinal cord to have room, which is a great thing. That's what made, obviously, my decision and some of the input from doctors very comfortable for me to go out there and play." 

(On whether he had known other players that have come back from this injury) 
"Yes. That's where we're going to do my evaluation with my doctors and my family, but yes. No question about it." 

(On the risk level of the surgical procedure) 
"I've heard it's very simple, from what I understand talking to some local neurologists and talking to a specialist that I have dealt with in Pittsburgh for the hour and a half I had the conference with, (it's) pretty much simple, but obviously after the season. As far as career, fine." 

(On whether he would have surgery if the problem did not persist) 
"If I went through the whole season, and I did not have any symptoms, no. Obviously, you don't want to fix something if it's not broken. It looks like it's broken, but if you have no symptoms, don't fix it. I don't know. That would have been a decision that the training staff, the doctors, myself and my family would evaluate after the season." 

(On the details of the surgical procedure) 
"I still don't know. That's why I'm going to go around and find out, to all the great specialists in the country and find out what the procedure is and what the different procedures are and how they have to back that procedure up by professional ethics, not normal people that walk around but professional athletes. In my situation I know there are going to be a lot of you writing articles. (There was) that article this year about how I take poundings left and right, which was a great article, and it's the truth about me. Mike Alstott doesn't get hit like a normal person. He gets hit in the head pretty much every other play, in the neck, in the shoulders, in the upper body pretty much every play. Not by one guy, by several guys, and it's proven out there. That's what I will make my determination off of, from when I go out and evaluate people. I know from talking to some people that I will play again. There's no question about it." 

(On whether this injury will affect his playing style) 
"No, and if I go through this process and I go through training camp and it does, I'm not going to go out there and play not like Mike Alstott. I'll hang it up, but that's not the concern because I feel with the rehab I will do, and that's why I'm in the NFL right now is because of my work ethic in the off season and the way I prepare myself. It's just another challenge in front of me, and I will overcome it." 

(On what he can contribute to the team other than his play) 
"I think there's no question there is support coming from my teammates. (The support) I've already had, in the 10 minutes I've been in the facility is, no question, unbelievable. They understand, from the feelings I get from them, how important I can be on the field for them. But somebody has to step up. In my position there are some young guys, Jameel Cook and Darian Barnes, that have to step up. I believe my contribution right now is assistant coach for my young guys, there's no question about it. I'm going to be around. I'm going to be doing rehab as soon as I get this surgery taken care of and doing this evaluation. I'm going through the procedures of what I have to do to take care of myself right now, but I will be around doing rehab and (I will be) on the field and being assistant coach as far as giving some advice and telling them how to play the game a little bit in my experience. I guess that's what I can do to help defend this world championship." 

(On whether he knows which disc is herniated) 
"I do, but I don't want to get in the specifics right now, I'm sorry. That's a little bit confidential right now, and once we get some further information then maybe after I talk to my doctors we can discuss that with you." 

(On whether he will miss the fans) 
"Of course, there's no question about it. That's why it's hard for me to sit up here. I talked about being inside of the game as far as being in the locker room and being a part of a second family. (It's) something I've been a part of since basically six years old. Growing up through a game that I love so much (One great thing) is the fans. The fans have been by my side through a lot of adversity in my career. A lot of people that have not believed in me in so many ways, whatever direction that might be, the fans have. They've always responded behind me and felt that I could do it and always gave me that encouragement that Mike Alstott can do it. There's no question the love and support they have given me is another reason Mike Alstott will be on that field come 2004." 

(On whether he has gotten rest) 
"I mean, with a sore neck it's hard to sleep. For the last week, since the muscles have loosened up and everything, I've felt a lot better. Some of the symptoms relieved themselves, so I slept. I was able to move my neck where I could go out and practice and loosen it up and it feel good. It's a situation where I got hit in the right spot and had a redirection as far as what this year is going to take."

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