KANSAS CITY, Mo. (Nov. 9, 2005) -- A spokesman for the Kansas City Chiefs denied a report that running back Priest Holmes might retire because of a spinal injury.
"We won't have anything until later today," said Bob Moore, the director of public relations. "I don't think it's career-ending."
Holmes, 32, a three-time Pro Bowl performer whose 66 touchdowns between 2002-2004 are an NFL record for any three-year span, was injured on a helmet-to-helmet hit against San Diego on Oct. 30.
He missed the game against Oakland last week and in the past two weeks has seen spinal-injury specialists in California and Florida. Speculation has been rampant that he would be out for an extended period, although the Chiefs have said they were hopeful he would soon return to the lineup.
KSHB reported that doctors had found a lump on Holmes' spine and were concerned about possible paralysis should he take a direct hit. Citing a highly placed source it didn't identify, the station said Holmes could announce his retirement as soon as Nov. 10.
Holmes' agent, Todd France, was traveling and not immediately available. An employee of France's agency, who asked not to be named, disputed the report and said suggestions that Holmes was about to retire were inaccurate.
But no one was discounting the possibility that the Chiefs' career rushing leader could be out an extended period, perhaps the rest of the season.
Injuries have caused Holmes to cut short two of his past three seasons. But he has shown flashes of his old self while rushing for 451 yards and six touchdowns on 119 carries. He also has 21 catches for 197 yards, including a 60-yard catch-and-run for a touchdown in a victory against Washington on Oct. 16.
If he is out for a long period, the Chiefs would turn to Holmes' backup, Larry Johnson, who has gained 5.2 yards per carry, with 506 yards on 97 attempts. Johnson had two touchdowns in the 27-23 victory against Oakland, including a 1-yard vault on the final play of the game. He has frequently complained that he was not being given enough carries.
"I don't have any information," coach Dick Vermeil said Nov. 8. "In fact, sometimes I get upset because I don't have more information. But the information and communication system is in the right hands."
When the three-time Pro Bowl running back is cleared to play again, it will be as the Chiefs' starter -- even though Johnson has both of Kansas City's 100-yard rushing games this year.
For all that, though, Vermeil wants Holmes back as soon as possible -- especially with the Chiefs (5-3) suiting up three backs against the Raiders. Two -- Tony Richardson and Ronnie Cruz -- are fullbacks.
Although the Chiefs could go with Johnson as their halfback again Nov. 13 against Buffalo, Vermeil said, "I'm hoping that doesn't happen. We know how talented he is, but we know we need two good running backs."
Vermeil, who had been using Holmes in two of every three offensive rotations, left no doubt as to his preference for the veteran.
"If you want to base it on merit, you have to look at everything Priest Holmes has done," Vermeil said. "His numbers have been the best in the NFL."
The Associated Press News Service
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