WR was trying to return with Bucs

Updated: June 23, 2004, 5:22 PM ET
By Len Pasquarelli | ESPN.com

Wide receiver Sylvester Morris joined the Tampa Bay Buccaneers this spring hoping to resurrect his star-crossed career. Instead he may have ended it.

The former first-round draft choice and all-rookie selection in 2000 suffered a severe left knee injury during a Tuesday practice, an MRI exam revealed Wednesday, and Morris will require surgery that certainly will end his 2004 season and possibly his career as well.

"I'm very disappointed, not only because he was doing some good things, obviously, but (because) here was a guy who has suffered a lot of adversity in his career," said Bucs coach Jon Gruden. "He has really been working hard to make a comeback."

This will mark, however, the fourth consecutive season that Morris will miss because of injury and one has to wonder when his persistence will run out. Morris could not be immediately reached for comment but sources close to the player suggested this might be his final attempt to resuscitate his once-promising career.

Morris, 26, was the 21st player selected overall in the 2000 draft. He played in 15 games for the Chiefs, starting 14 of them, and registering 48 receptions for 678 yards and three touchdowns. The 48 catches were the most ever by a Kansas City rookie wide receiver.

But the former Jackson State star tore the anterior cruciate ligament in his right knee during a June 20, 2001 offseason workout and had surgery two days later that forced him to miss the entire 2001 campaign. A year later, still struggling with his rehabilitation, Morris was placed on injured reserve in the summer, ending his 2002 campaign.

Last year, he attempted a comeback with the Chiefs, but sustained a hip injury and was subsequently released by the club. He signed with the Bucs in February, getting just a one-year contract at the NFL veteran minimum base salary, as part of an attempt by Tampa Bay officials to bolster the wide receiver corps with modestly compensated players.

His attempt to return to the field after missing three full seasons, and having not appeared in a game since the 2000 finale, was viewed from the outset as a long shot. But the Bucs liked his size and speed and felt he was worth bringing to training camp.

That won't happen now.

"It was," allowed Gruden of a non-contact injury that occurred when Morris was simply running a pass route, "a freak and unfortunate thing."

Len Pasquarelli is a senior NFL writer from ESPN.com.