Still holding out hope that he will return to the field this season, Kansas City Chiefs running back Priest Holmes will meet later this week with a neurosurgeon in Miami for another evaluation of the severe head and neck trauma that has sidelined him for more than a year.
The consultation comes as the clock is winding down on Holmes' chances for playing at all in the 2006 season.
Holmes, 33, has been on the NFL's physically unable to perform list (PUP) since August. While the Chiefs have until the 12th week of the season to activate him, league rules stipulate that any player on the PUP list must begin practicing by Nov. 7, next Tuesday, to be eligible to return for this season.
Once a player returns to practice, his team has a three-week window in which to evaluate him. After the three weeks, the player must be activated or remain on the physically unable to perform list. With time running out, and Holmes still not cleared to play, the likelihood of his return, at least this season, appears remote.
Yet team president Carl Peterson told the Kansas City Star that he is not yet ready to count Holmes out for this year.
"I've said it a hundred times before -- there were a lot of media and a lot of fans who said he would never play football again after he had his hip surgery [in 2004]. And he came back."
Peterson said the team will make an announcement on Holmes' status after his examination.
Holmes has spent the season at his hometown of San Antonio, away from the team, so that he would not be a distraction. There have been disparate reports over the first two months of the season about the state of his conditioning and his workout regiment. He has not played since suffering severe neck and head trauma in a head-to-head collision with San Diego linebacker Shawne Merriman last Oct. 30.
It appears that Holmes, who has appeared in only 15 games over the last two seasons, first because of a career-threatening hip injury in 2004 and then last year's head-and-neck trauma, is prepared to abide by the various specialists' verdict on his football future. For the most part, he has been treated by Dr. Robert Watkins, a renowned Los Angeles-based specialist.
Watkins has cautioned Holmes about the potential long-term ramifications of another back or neck injury.
In his first three seasons in Kansas City (2001-03), after signing as an unrestricted free agent, Holmes averaged 1,530 yards and 18.7 rushing touchdowns. In the past two seasons, though the nine-year veteran totaled 1,343 yards and 20 touchdowns, appearing in only 15 games. In 2005, he ran for only 451 yards, his lowest output since his 1997 rookie season in Baltimore.
One of the game's top all-around tailbacks before injuries took their toll, Holmes has carried 1,734 times for 8,035 yards and 86 touchdowns in 109 games. He also has 334 receptions for 2,945 yards and eight touchdowns.
Len Pasquarelli is a senior NFL writer for ESPN.com. To check out Len's chat archive, click here.