Chrebet makes it official, says he's retiring

HEMPSTEAD, N.Y. -- The thought of going back into the locker
room, seeing his teammates, his uniform, his old life was too much
to bear for Wayne Chrebet.

The veteran Jets receiver stayed away for over a month so he
could come to terms with the inevitable -- that he would never be a
part of that locker room again. Once Chrebet made his way to the
Jets facility Thursday for the first time since sustaining another
concussion Nov. 6, he realized how long he had been away.

Dust caked the boxes in his locker, and mail overflowed from
adoring fans sharing their well wishes. Chrebet confirmed his
11-year career was over, ending a love story between the little
receiver that could and the fans that embraced the hometown hero.

"Some days you wake up and you don't feel like anything's
changed," Chrebet said, his lips quivering and eyes watering.
"And then your team is playing on TV and it hits you in the gut
and makes it tough. Just accepting it and not fighting it -- it's
not a fight I can win right now. I'm not going to get back on the
field. I think everybody's aware of that."

Chrebet signed with the Jets as an undrafted free agent out of
Hofstra, the same place the Jets practice. Though he was undersized
at 5-foot-10, he quickly became a clutch possession receiver,
working his way up the team record charts.

He would go across the middle, making big third-down
conversions, just about everything anyone ever asked of him. His
hard work and everyman persona endeared him to Jets fans, who
bought his No. 80 jerseys in bulk.

"When you come in the stadium now, that's all you see is the
No. 80 jersey there," said receiver Laveranues Coles, one of his
closest friends on the team. "It's difficult knowing he's not ever
going to come out of the tunnel with me again."

The decision to walk away was difficult and painful. Chrebet had
a series of head injuries that plagued him the last three seasons,
and sustained at least six concussions in his NFL career. He had a
post-traumatic migraine early in the 2003 season and missed the
final eight games that season with postconcussion syndrome.

He considered retiring, but instead came back last season.
Chrebet played in all 16 games, but sustained a mild concussion in
the regular-season finale against St. Louis. Though he knew the
risks, he came back for 2005, knowing one more hit would mean the

It happened against the Chargers on -- what else -- a clutch
third-down play that got the Jets a first down. He stayed down on
the field for several minutes, with a scary, glazed look in his
eyes. Chrebet remembers waking up the next morning and seeing how
calm his wife, Amy, and his sister were. He knew something was

"I asked them, 'Have you talked to the doctors?''' he said.
"They're like, 'Yeah.' Do you know something I don't know? And
they're like, 'Yeah.' And I said, 'So I'm done?' And my wife was
like, 'Yeah.'"

Chrebet was racked with guilt.

"You ever just look at somebody and you see the look on their
face and it just makes you feel bad?" Chrebet said. "There's
something about what she's been through with me, she's the one who
has to take me to these doctor visits and try to encourage me to
get out of bed. She's seen the darkest moments that have come from
the concussions.

"I never wanted people to worry about me."

Chrebet said he is feeling fine. He spends his days with his two
sons, 5-year-old Lukas and 3-year-old Cade, and said, "It's
unbelievable the amount of love they've been giving me. It's almost
like they know I need it."

Still, Chrebet finds himself bored at home. A few weeks ago, he
needed to keep busy so he went into the yard and picked up sticks.
All those stats -- he finishes second on the all-time team list with
580 receptions -- mean nothing with time on your hands.

It also was little consolation when his teammates selected him
the recipient of the Ed Block Courage Award. Chrebet said he will
wait until the season ends before filing his retirement papers with
the NFL.

Of course, old friend Vinny Testaverde has a plan that would
send them both out in style. Testaverde also will end his career
when the season ends.

"I told him that if I get in the game, he's going to come out
of the tunnel, I'm going to overthrow everybody and hit him in the
end zone," Testaverde said. "He said he was afraid he was going
to drop it, though."

Knowing Chrebet, he would hang on tight and never want to let go
of the ball.

"There was nothing like game day for me," Chrebet said. "I'm
hoping to find something to replace that feeling. I don't think
there ever will be. I would pay so much just for my friends and
family to run out of the tunnel one day, to know what it feels like
to drive to a game with the music on, you see everybody with the
jersey on, hearing the Jets chant, being the center of that, it's
been the greatest 11 years of my life. It's a shame that it's