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The Strong Report: Mack Strong on Retiring

Mack strong talks about his decision to retire.

I've played a long time.  I've played 15 years.  I felt like I was pretty lucky, pretty blessed, in my whole career to play a long time and not to have anything that ended my season, my career but you play this game long enough, especially playing my position, as many games as I've played in, it's bound to happen sooner or later.

There's a lot more to life than football.  I have my wife and two kids and there is nothing more important than being able to spend time with them.  If I hadn't been able to walk off that field, obviously life goes on, but I'm just grateful that I had the opportunity to make that decision, make that choice.  To me it's a no-brainer.  I've given all, every ounce inside of me, to football.  I feel like I gave every ounce I had so I have no regrets.

I feel very sober about my situation and for the last three years, it's funny ... OK, at some point you have to move on with your life.  You can't just be playing a game for a living but I never quite thought it would end this way, with an injury.  I always thought I'd be able to call my own shots and I always wanted to do it that way but it is okay.  I feel very good about that.  I feel like it's definitely an opportunity for other players to kind of raise up and take ownership, leadership, of the team and give other guys the opportunity to play.  I still want to be very much around the organization, very much a part of the team this year and I'll do whatever I can to help us win.

When (the neck injury) happened (Sunday), then on the plane ride back, and when I woke up this morning I kind of felt it in my gut; that this was something significant.  It wasn't just like any other injury or ding that I've had in my career before.  This was a little bit more serious.  The fact that I can articulate those things right now is a blessing.  The other thing about it, I think the decision's been made for me.  I think it would've been very hard had I gone through this season, played, and I didn't have any injuries, I think you're always kind of in flux about when should I hang them up?  When should I call it quits?  It's a no-brainer.  I don't have to worry about some sign or anything.  This was my sign.

I don't have any tingling left.  I just had a little bit of soreness, maybe burning, in my shoulder but that's about it.  I've been doing that for, I think, four straight years now. I'm a fullback.  That just goes with the territory.  That's just the way things are.  You're always going to have some kind of pain, some kind of injury or something that you have to push through but at the same time I want to be smart.  I don't want to do anything that's going to jeopardize my long term quality of health.  I've been dinged.  I've had stingers more times than I care to count but I knew this wasn't something you could just go off the field for a couple plays, shake it off, and come right back in.  This is something that might be a little bit more serious than that.

I woke up Sunday morning.  I felt something like maybe I had a little crick in the neck, maybe a little tingling in my left arm but I'd felt that before so I didn't think anything about it.  I just went out and played but when I did have the one hit I kind of felt more burning in both arms, both of my legs and I knew this was something different.  This is something I'd never felt before.

The hit was very much normal.  Even on film it doesn't look like anything really happened.  You can't really tell but I knew right away.  This is something that's different.  I've never felt this before; tingling in my hands, numbness, feel it all the way down to my feet.  I knew at that point this was something I needed to take care of.  I can tell you what I saw and what I'm sure the doctors will tell you later on is that there was a spinal cord injury.

There was a herniated disk that pinched my spinal cord.  It wasn't a stinger.  It was a lot more severe than that.  It won't need surgery, thank goodness.  It should be something that will get better over time and I'm grateful for that.  I'm glad I won't have to get cut on at all.  The prognosis for my quality of life is that I'll be able to press on, play with my kids, and do all the things that I like doing.  Over time it should go away.  I'm sure they'll have many more x-rays and they'll keep an eye on it, those types of things.  I'll be doing whatever treatment, rehabilitation, that they have me doing to make sure that doesn't become an issue long term down the road.

In light of what's already happened this year with the young man (Kevin Everett) from Buffalo that's the first thing that came to my mind was I hope this stops.  I hope this tingling stops, this numbness stops.  I just felt very fortunate to be able to get off the field.  It was really scary, especially something that you've never felt before.  I've felt sprained ankles, sprained knees, stingers, bruises, dislocations.  I've felt it all but this was something that was different.  It was foreign to me as a fullback."

Actually my wife had a bad headache (last night) and I had to take her to the emergency room late last night when I got home.  That's right, I got hit that hard; my wife had a headache.  We were mainly talking about her deal last night and this morning.  I knew when I was going to get the x-rays.  I told her and I called my mom and said, 'I think this may be something that may end it for me.'  I wanted them to be prepared.

Boy, I don't know if I could put (what I'd like to do next) into words.  I came here in 1993 an undrafted rookie free agent and 15 years later, I'm not just calling it quits, I feel like I've played a couple careers.  I've been able to be a part of an incredible team; a lot of memories coming to this building.  I was just talking to somebody downstairs about all the different players that I've had relationships with, guys that have come and gone in and out of the building, being able to go to the Super Bowl, going to a couple Pro Bowls.  That's just something I never thought of in 1993.  If somebody would've told me all that would be waiting for me at the end of it, my career, I'd say, 'You're nuts.  There's no way.'

I feel like I've been extremely blessed.  It is too early to reflect.  I can tell you this much, I do remember the day that I moved here, when I literally brought all of my bags.  I remember not having enough money.  I borrowed my mom's luggage.  I didn't have enough money to have a bag to put all my shoes in so I put my shoes in a garbage bag.  I remember going out to the carousel down at baggage claim to go get my garbage bag full of tennis shoes off of there.  I remember somebody said, 'God, somebody put a garbage bag on there.'  Just as I was about to reach it I took my hand back and I walked away for a little while and I waited until everybody left and then I went and got it.  That will definitely rank up there as one of those moments because I look back from where I'm at today.

Boy, you talk about humble beginnings.  I feel like I've been giving a lot over the last 15 years. I've been trying to gear towards that for the last couple years, trying to get my affairs in order, if you will, for life after football.  I've been trying to talk to everybody, a lot of people in this room about broadcasting and getting involved in that so I'm officially throwing my name out there now for any offers.  There are a lot of things that I'm interested in and I want to do besides football.  This has been an incredible part of my life.  It's opened many doors and opportunities for me and my family and my friends.  I have no regrets.

I'm just very grateful I got to play as long as I did but now it's time to move on to bigger and better things and  I'm the type of person I feel like life gets better.  I won't be looking back, five, 10 years, from now, and saying, 'Man, those were the best days of my life, when I played in the NFL for the Seattle Seahawks.' My best days are ahead of me.  That's my perspective about it.

I have the utmost confidence in Leonard Weaver (taking over at fullback).  I think he's going to make people forget about Mack Strong around here.  He's going to have that type of impact.  He has that type of ability and that type of talent.  He's just a great guy to be around.  I think now that the ball is squarely in his court I think he'll take the ball and run with it.  It's always kind of awkward when you're the back and you don't know, okay, what's my role?  What's my responsibility and how should I approach things? 

Now he's the guy and he's the guy that's going to, hopefully, be that unsung catalyst for the offense that does the dirty work and helps this offense be successful.  There are a similarities - being undrafted, in our faith, us spending a lot of time just studying the bible together and talking about spiritual things.  Those have all been things that have helped us become closer as friends.  He sings a lot better than me.  My wife can vouch for that.

And I remember when they named (Mike Holmgren) the head coach.  I just remember thinking, at the time, really believing we'll seriously have the opportunity to go to the Super Bowl.  Being what we had been at that point time and in the history of the organization, kind of floundering around and not meeting our own expectations, that just got me excited about football again.

I'm very grateful that he came.  I feel like he definitely extended my career.  Just being able to play for him, the fullback in his offense has allowed me to be able to go to a couple Pro Bowls.  I don't think that would have happened if he didn't come here.  I think a lot of the success I've had the last four, five, years of my career I owe to Mike Holmgren, Stump Mitchell, and them having the belief in allowing me to be able to do things to help this team to win.

There were several times, especially right before Coach Holmgren got here, where I thought about, boy, is this it?  Is this the best that it's going to get?  It does make it a lot better.  Even if I played 15 years and we didn't accomplish anything, I think just because of the relationships it still makes it worthwhile, it's icing on the cake though, all the things we were able to do.  2005 was a year that I will never forget, going to the Super Bowl.  That was a once in a lifetime experience.  It makes it all worthwhile.

(I'll miss) the relationships.  The things that make me emotional is remembering all the players, tons and tons of players that I've gotten to know over the years, times in locker rooms.  It's totally different when you feel like you're in the middle of it and then when you're an outsider looking in.  That'll become a reality for me but it's okay.  There is transition, there's change, and it's a part of this business that everybody's going to face someday.  Even though I thought it would be still some time down the road for me here I am.

I'm a transplanted Northwesterner.  I don't see myself going back down to the South.  This is home to me.  Seattle's been good to me.  The fans have been great, the community.  This is where I met my wife.  This is where my kids were born.  A lot of my family's moved up here, all my wife's family lives in this area so I think for me to leave would just be crazy.  I'm not going anywhere.

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