Bills DE Schobel open to playing 1 more season

By John Wawrow
AP Sports Writer / July 28, 2010

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PITTSFORD, N.Y.—Aaron Schobel is now considering playing one more year after the Buffalo Bills' leading pass rusher spent the offseason contemplating retirement.

That doesn't mean he's made up his mind yet. Speaking by phone from his home in Texas on Wednesday, Schobel confirmed to The Associated Press that he intends to make a decision by the middle of August when it's time for his children to begin attending school.

"I'm thinking about it, but I'm not ready to make a decision," Schobel said. "I'm not saying yes. I'm not saying no."

Schobel spoke on the day Bills players began arriving in suburban Rochester to report for training camp, which opens Thursday. He's spent all nine of his NFL seasons in Buffalo, and his 78 career sacks rank second on the team behind Hall of Famer Bruce Smith.

One factor in his decision is the Bills wanting him back. Schobel has four years left on a $50.5 million contract extension he signed in 2007, including a $2 million roster bonus he was due in March.

"I'm thinking if I want to do it, and they want me to do it, then I'll do it," said Schobel, noting he's not had any contact with the team. "The Bills might tell me to get lost. And I'd understand it if they did that."

Schobel did not attend any of the team's offseason workout programs and practices, including a three-day mandatory minicamp a month ago.

General manager Buddy Nix and first-year head coach Chan Gailey have previously left the door open for Schobel's return. The team also has him listed in their 2010 media guide, which was released to reporters on Wednesday.

Team officials were not immediately available for comment.

Should he return, Schobel would have to make the switch from defensive end to linebacker in the new 3-4 defense Gailey has introduced this offseason.

The possibility of Schobel playing this season would mark a major change of heart after he sold his Buffalo-area home this spring and relocated his family back to his native Texas.

Along with wanting to spend more time with his family, Schobel was fed up with the team's performance. The Bills have not made the playoffs during his tenure and enjoyed only one winning season, a 9-7 finish in 2004, during that span.

He was also concerned about the toll that injuries and the wear and tear of another football season would have on his body once he's done playing. Last month, Schobel was so prepared to retire that he informed the Bills -- through the media -- that they should prepare to move on without him.

"A month ago, I was not playing," Schobel said, noting he spent much of last season "irritated with football."

His mood began to soften as the NFL season approached and he spoke to his wife about the possibility of playing. He also began missing the camaraderie with fellow veteran defensive linemen he's developed, specifically noting Chris Kelsay, Marcus Stroud and Kyle Williams.

"I just needed some time," Schobel said. "The last couple of weeks, I started thinking, 'It ain't so bad.' ... Maybe it's the midweek blues, I don't know."

Also factoring into Schobel's decision is whether he has enough time to relocate his family back to Buffalo and able to get his children into the same school they've attended in the past.

That's a switch after Schobel, in March, said he was open to the possibility of living alone in Buffalo and traveling to Texas to be with his family on days off. He's now realized that the travel would wear him out.

One thing he is certain of is this will be his last season.

"I'll be 33 in September and I've got to get on with my life," he said.

Schobel apologized for wavering on his decision, but said it's one he doesn't take lightly.

"I know I'm probably annoying people, but you've got to be 100 percent committed to this," Schobel said. "I apologize to the people I've irritated. But I guess I can't please everyone."

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