Bettis expected to announce decision by June 1
Even though Jerome Bettis has accepted a reduced contract over the weekend, he hasn't ruled out retiring, the Pittsburgh Post Gazette reported Thursday.
Bettis told KDKA-TV Wednesday that he agreed to take a pay cut to give the Steelers salary cap relief, but that he still may retire and his decision likely won't come until June 1.
"It's still, for me, not a done deal in that sense," Bettis told the station in his first interview since accepting the new deal.
This is the second consecutive season the NFL's No. 5 career rusher has accepted a substantial pay cut to stay in Pittsburgh. Bettis was to have made $4,484,000 next season, but will play for about $1.5 million -- or about $500,000 more than his base salary last season.
Now Bettis is trying to figure out whether he'll play his 13th season.
"The Steelers have asked me to restructure it for the cap," Bettis said in the television interview, "and I still haven't been able to give coach a firm decision. So, he's given me some more time. Obviously, the contract has given me more time, and I'll be able to let the coaching staff and the organization know probably around June 1 as to my plans."
Bettis told KDKA's Bob Pompeani that he will approach the season as if he were going to play.
"My training regimen is going to be the same. I think it's important for me to go through the same process, because, if I step on the football field, I want to be in great shape and I want to be comparable to where I was last year and the year before that. So I need to do the same things that I've been doing."
If Bettis decided to retire, the Steelers would have to scramble to find depth at running back. Duce Staleyis the starter, but Verron Haynes is a restricted free agent and Willie Parker, an undrafted rookie in 2004, is their only other back.
Coach Bill Cowher has already told Bettis that he would start 2005 the way he did '04.
"The role for me will be the same as it was last year," Bettis said. "I'll come in and I'll spell Duce when he needs a blow. When we get down in the red zone, the goal line, then that's when I'll take over."
Bettis began each of the last two seasons as a backup, to Amos Zereoue in 2003 and Staley in 2004, only to win back his starting job each time. Though he gained 811 yards in 2003, he enjoyed a career resurgence last season to boost his career yardage to 13,295, fifth all-time.
Bettis still wants to play in the Super Bowl, and he believes the Steelers have a chance to get him there for the first time. Another bonus? This year's Super Bowl will be played in Detroit, Bettis' hometown.
"I think the team has a chance to be a Super Bowl-contending football team," Bettis said. "If they weren't, I wouldn't come back, I wouldn't come back just to play. I'm coming back to try to win a championship. I really think this team has the makeup to do that.
"That the Super Bowl is in Detroit, yeah, that's a factor, that's something I looked at. It would be great to finish where I started."
Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.