Center Tobeck retires after 13 NFL seasons

KIRKLAND, Wash. -- Robbie Tobeck pulled the blue placard
inscribed with his name and jersey number from the metal slot above
his locker.

Robbie Tobeck Tobeck

It was the first time "61 -- Robbie Tobeck" hasn't been there
since he became a member of the Seattle Seahawks seven years ago.

The former Pro Bowl center retired Monday, the day after
Seattle's season ended with a loss in the NFC divisional playoffs
at Chicago. Tobeck, a jokester and prankster who was one of the
Seahawks' most popular teammates, played in 176 career games in 13
seasons -- the first six in Atlanta.

Not bad for a former undrafted free agent from Washington State
whom the Falcons signed as a longshot guard in 1993.

"I feel fortunate and really blessed to be able to play this
game and live a childhood dream out for 14 years -- and really,
still be a kid a little bit," Tobeck said Monday after signing the
inside wall of his locker and packing his belongings into a large
garbage bag.

"I've overcome a lot of things ... what can I say? I feel

Tobeck missed the final 10 games of Seattle's season after what
he first thought was a severe flu became an abscess that settled in
his hip. He spent Thanksgiving weekend in a hospital taking
intravenous antibiotics and lost 25 pounds.

He returned to practice earlier this month, but still hasn't
gained all of his weight back. Seattle has since turned to its
future by starting Chris Spencer, its first-round draft choice from

Quarterback Matt Hasselbeck, one of Tobeck's best friends on the
team and frequent target of his many jokes, assumed some of
Tobeck's responsibility for blocking calls immediately before plays
during his center's absence. Coach Mike Holmgren said that
overloaded Hasselbeck and may have contributed to his inconsistent
play at the end of the season.

"In some ways, it will be easier for me," Hasselbeck said.
"That's because I am always the butt of his jokes."

He credits Tobeck with establishing the team chemistry that has
spawned three consecutive NFC West titles.

"He's meant a lot to this team," Hasselbeck said.

Holmgren said he'll miss Tobeck making him laugh, even when the
coach was trying to stay serious through tense moments. Holmgren
also admires how hard Tobeck worked to carve his now-former career.

"He really was, to me, a classic overachiever," Holmgren said.

Tobeck will become an insurance executive in the Seattle suburb
of Bellevue. His first day of work is next week.

Soon after Tobeck signed with Seattle as a free agent before the
2000 season, Holmgren was particularly irked at a preseason
practice. The coach pointed across the field to two players to whom
he said he was giving full responsibility for improving
performance: Tobeck and then-quarterback Trent Dilfer, who were on
the sidelines next to each other.

Dilfer turned to Tobeck and said, "Man, I really hope someone
is standing behind us."

No one was.

"Those are the types of stories I am going to miss," Tobeck
said. "Those are classics.

"Really, the greatest thing about this game is the friends you
make and the stories you'll take with you. You know, the money can
come and go. But those relationships will always be with me."