ALAMEDA, Calif. - Next week, Oakland's Trace Armstrong will
have operations on his right elbow and right shoulder. Still
pending is possible left shoulder surgery, which would push his
career total to 17 procedures.
That's enough to get the durable 38-year-old defensive end
Armstrong was placed on injured reserve for the third straight
season last week with his latest setback in an injury-plagued
career -- a torn labrum similar to the shoulder injury sustained by
quarterback Rich Gannon.
"These three years have been the toughest of my career,"
Armstrong said Wednesday. "I've never experienced anything like
this. I'm tired of it. ... I've got to face the reality part of it.
I'm 38 years old. I've played a long time. A body has its limits.
It makes you think, `Have I reached that limit?' "
Armstrong is moving closer to becoming like former Broncos
lineman Mark Schlereth, who underwent 29 operations in his career.
"I'm approaching that 20 mark," said Armstrong, president of
the NFL Players Association. "Oh, yeah. The hits keep coming. It's
been a bunch."
He tore an Achilles' tendon early in 2001 and returned the
following season, only to go on IR with a groin tear last January.
He injured his left shoulder during Oakland's 28-18 victory over
Minnesota on Nov. 16.
A Pro Bowler in 2000, Armstrong was a big part of Oakland's
much-improved defense last season that helped the Raiders reach the
Super Bowl for the first time in 20 years.
"It's disappointing all his injuries have been season-ending
injuries," Pro Bowl right tackle Lincoln Kennedy said. "He wanted
to play it out. No one wants to finish the season on IR. I couldn't
stand Trace when he was at Miami. He was their third-down pass-rush
Armstrong led the AFC in sacks three years ago for Miami, where
he played six seasons. He has 106 sacks in 15 NFL seasons.
Armstrong said he wouldn't officially announce plans to retire
until after the season, if he does decide to call it quits. He will
talk it over with his wife and then make his choice.
"The biggest thing for me is I feel that I let this
organization down," he said. "They brought me out here to do
something, and I haven't been able to do it for them. That's the
prevalent emotion. Just disappointment at not being able to give
them what they want."