Injured strongside linebacker David Pollack, restricted by the "halo" device which stabilizes the fractured C-6 vertebra in his neck, said Thursday via conference call that he hopes to resume his football career with the Cincinnati Bengals in 2007, but acknowledged that his NFL future remains very much undetermined.
"I want to be able to hold my kids," said Pollack, who was injured Sept. 17 against the Cleveland Browns and is rehabilitating at his suburban Cincinnati home. "I want to be able to hold my wife's hand when we walk down the street. This puts that all in perspective."
The injury to Pollack, 24, has not required surgery. But doctors have not ruled out the possibility that, at some point, he might need an operation to repair his neck. That determination won't come for about two more months, and until the halo is removed from his head and doctors evaluate how the injury has healed.
Specialists have apprised Pollack that, if he has surgery, his football career probably is over. In such cases, orthopedists have told the former first-round draft choice, fusion surgery precludes having the kind of contact inherent to football, because the chances of a second fracture are increased.
"One of the doctors told me that not many people walk away from a second broken neck," Pollack said. "That kind of hit home. The big thing is, when you fuse the vertebrae, they usually fuse two together. And when that happens, the likelihood for injury is greatly increased."
Pollack was the Bengals' first-round choice in the 2005 draft, the 17 overall selection, after a standout college career at the University of Georgia. He missed virtually all of training camp and the preseason as a rookie because of a contract dispute, finally signed just before the start of the regular season, and appeared in 14 games. He started five contests and posted 35 tackles and 4½ sacks.
A hamstring injury slowed Pollack in camp this summer and free agent Rashad Jeanty, who played three years in the CFL, opened the season as the starting strongside linebacker. Pollack played in just two games, one as the starter, and had only one tackle, a stop of Browns tailback Reuben Droughns, before the neck injury ended his campaign.
While returning to the field remains his goal, a greater priority right now, Pollack said, is simply trying to live a normal life. Pollack has only occasional numbness in his left hand now, he said, but continues to have trouble sleeping, in part because of the halo. Things he took for granted and didn't even give a second thought, Pollack allowed, are now daily struggles.
"I can't shower," he said. "I can't wash my hair. I can't cut my hair. I can't roll over. That kind of stuff, not being able to do the normal things, it really puts things in perspective."
Always a religious person, Pollack said he is relying on his faith to pull him through. And that will be his strength, he said, if he can't play football again.
"When they told me I had fractured my C-6 ... I had a kind of peace over me," Pollack said. "I never cried once. I knew that God was in control, and that everything happens for a reason. If God took football away from me, if God didn't want me to play football again, I know that's something that he would give me the strength to deal with."
Len Pasquarelli is a senior NFL writer for ESPN.com.