Bills: Aaron Schobel won't be back

PITTSFORD, N.Y. -- Veteran linebacker Aaron Schobel's career with the Buffalo Bills appears over.

General manager Buddy Nix said Monday the Bills are moving on without their leading pass rusher, ruling out any chance Schobel will be a member of the team this season. Schobel has not attended training camp as he tries to figure out whether to play for Buffalo or retire, so the Bills made the choice easier for him.

"We're trying to get ready to play in 2010, and we think this is what we needed to do," Nix said. "There comes a point where we have to move forward and that point is today."

Schobel has four years left on a $50.5 million contract extension he signed in 2007, and will remain on the team's Reserve/Did Not Report List. Schobel told The Associated Press in a phone interview from his home outside of Houston that the Bills told him they would release him if he decided to come back at this point.

The team's decision was made five days into training camp in suburban Rochester. Last Wednesday, Nix provided no timetable on Schobel, saying the team will keep the door open for him.

What changed?

"He was not late on Wednesday," Nix said after informing Schobel's agent of the team's decision.

Schobel, who has spent his entire nine-year career with the Bills, was not upset by the decision and recognized he put the Bills in a tough spot.

"I understand it. I would've done the same thing if I was in their shoes," Schobel said. "I understand it 100 percent. I'm sort of relieved."

Schobel was still having difficulty making up his mind even after he indicated last week he had renewed interest to play.

"I probably changed my mind 10 times about it this week," he said.

Selected in the second round of the 2001 draft out of TCU, Schobel's 78 career sacks rank second on the team behind Hall of Famer Bruce Smith.

"I have no regrets and I appreciate the organization, Buffalo, their fans and [Bills owner] Ralph [Wilson] for putting me in this position where I was able to play for nine years," he said. "I'm not going to say anything bad about them and I wish them the best."

Schobel said he is not planning to retire, but will take a few weeks before making a decision.

"I don't know what I'll do," he said. Then, with a laugh, Schobel added: "I guess I've got to work on my golf game."

He did say if he does play, this would be his last NFL season.

After playing his entire career at defensive end, Schobel would've been moved to linebacker as the Bills make the switch to a 3-4 defense being introduced by first-year head coach Chan Gailey. Schobel spent his offseason in Texas and not taken part in any Bills activities.

Schobel was due a $2 million roster bonus in March, which was not paid because he had not passed a physical. The team had not fined him for missing three days of mandatory minicamps in June or for the six training camp practices he's missed.

Nix noted that Schobel was falling behind in learning the defense, and the team had several players ready to fill the outside linebacker position. Aaron Maybin, a first-round draft pick last year, is considered the prime candidate to take over the starting job.

"We've got a lot of work to do," Maybin said. "When you lose a guy like Aaron Schobel, that definitely means that the rest of the guys in the position room have to definitely step it up."

Linebacker Chris Kelsay will miss Schobel, whom he regards as one of his closest friends on the team.

"It's tough," Kelsay said. "But I'm sure there's some relief on his part. Buddy and his staff just felt like it was time to move forward evidently. You can't argue with them because we've got a season to prepare for."

Nose tackle Kyle Williams also took the news in stride.

"Like Schobel's always said, that's the team's prerogative," Williams said. "I think he'll be fine either way. I think we'll be fine either way."