Broken vertebra too much -- for now

ALAMEDA, Calif. -- Rich Gannon will not return to the field
for the Oakland Raiders this season because of a broken vertebra in
his neck.

The quarterback, who turns 39 in December, saw four of the
country's top neck and spine specialists over the past couple of
weeks and was told he shouldn't try to play again this year. But
Gannon didn't rule out a return next season and wasn't ready to say
he's going to retire.
"After visiting with these professionals and these experts,
it's been brought to my attention that it's the general consensus
that a return to action this season is unrealistic," Gannon said
Monday, speaking publicly for the first time since getting hurt in
a helmet-to-helmet hit Sept. 26. "As far as my future, I'm just
not really in a position to speculate beyond the 2004 season."

Gannon was knocked out of the game in the first quarter of the
Raiders' 30-20 win over Tampa Bay last month after being hit by
linebacker Derrick Brooks.

The Raiders originally said Gannon would be out at least eight
weeks. Kerry Collins is playing in his place.

"It's good to have it out of the way, and good for him," left guard Frank Middleton said of Gannon. "Now Collins knows this is his team and we're going to ride and die with him."

This was supposed to be Gannon's comeback season.
The 2002 NFL MVP was hurt in a 17-10 loss to Kansas City last
Oct. 20, and had shoulder surgery in November, finishing the season
on injured reserve. This offseason was the most productive in his
17-year career as he worked his way back.
The Raiders had not yet placed Gannon on injured reserve.
"It's extremely disappointing," said Gannon, wearing a hard
neck brace he'll need for about six weeks. "I don't think a lot of
people realize just what went into it, and the night of the injury
I think people saw the excruciating pain on my face. ... I put a
lot of effort and energy into coming back."
Gannon said he knew the injury was significant right away, but
never felt numbness in his extremities.
During the Raiders' Super Bowl season two years ago, Gannon
broke the NFL completions record with 418. He led the league with
4,689 yards passing, nearly becoming just the second quarterback to
go over 5,000 yards in a season. Dan Marino threw for 5,084 yards
in 1984.
Gannon completed 67.6 percent of his attempts, had 26 touchdowns
passes and only 10 interceptions. His 97.3 rating was second in the
NFL to the Jets' Chad Pennington.
He also threw for more than 300 yards in 10 games, another
Gannon will discuss his future in football with his wife,
Shelley, and the couple's two daughters.
"I have no regrets if that Sunday night game was my last,"
Gannon said.
Gannon was traded to Minnesota only two weeks after New England
drafted him out of Delaware in the fourth round in 1987. He played
for the Vikings until 1992, spent '93 with Washington, sat out the
1994 season after shoulder surgery, then became an effective
starter in Kansas City during 1995-98.

Gannon left the Chiefs as a free agent in 1999, and had been a
standout in Oakland until getting hurt last year.