Surgery could end career of Bengals LB Pollack

Updated: December 14, 2006, 6:12 PM ET
Associated Press

CINCINNATI -- Bengals linebacker David Pollack will need surgery for the cracked bone in his neck, likely ending his football career.

David Pollack

Pollack cracked the bone while making a tackle against the Cleveland Browns on Sept. 17 and was placed in a halo brace that immobilized his neck. Doctors told him that if the fracture healed without surgery, he could resume his career.

The former first-round draft pick was examined Thursday by a specialist who recommended surgery on the fracture, which is expected in the next few weeks.

Pollack wasn't available for comment. All that the Bengals would say is that "no forecast of Pollack's eventual return to football will be made at this time."

The news was released after players were done practicing in the afternoon.

During an interview in October, Pollack said that his career would most likely be over if he had to have surgery.

"If it heals by itself, then I'm fine," he said at the time. "It's just like anything else. I'll be fine to play again. It's just a matter of how it heals."

He said during the interview that if the crack in the bone didn't heal on its own, doctors would have to fuse two vertebrae to stabilize it. He has full range of motion in his arms and legs, but would be risking paralysis if he tried to play after such an operation and hurt the neck again.

"One doctor said it: Not very many people walk away from a broken neck twice," Pollack said. "And that's something that kind of hits home, you know.

"When you fuse two vertebrae together, the likelihood for injury is greatly increased."

Pollack was a first-round draft -- 17th overall -- in 2005 out of Georgia, where he played defensive end. The Bengals picked him intending to move him to linebacker.

A contract dispute cut into his rookie training camp, and he didn't start until the sixth game. A sprained knee forced him to miss two games during the season. Despite the setbacks, he ranked second on the team with 4½ sacks.

The Bengals were expecting a big second season out of Pollack. He snapped his neck while tackling Browns running back Reuben Droughns during the second game of the season. As he lay on the field, he didn't have feeling in his arms.

He was regaining sensation when he was taken off the field, which made him think he merely pinched a nerve. Medical tests found the small fracture, and he was put in the protective halo immediately.

Copyright 2006 by The Associated Press