Center Tobeck retires after 13 NFL seasons
KIRKLAND, Wash. -- Robbie Tobeck pulled the blue placard inscribed with his name and jersey number from the metal slot above his locker.
It was the first time "61 -- Robbie Tobeck" hasn't been there since he became a member of the Seattle Seahawks seven years ago.
The former Pro Bowl center retired Monday, the day after Seattle's season ended with a loss in the NFC divisional playoffs at Chicago. Tobeck, a jokester and prankster who was one of the Seahawks' most popular teammates, played in 176 career games in 13 seasons -- the first six in Atlanta.
Not bad for a former undrafted free agent from Washington State whom the Falcons signed as a longshot guard in 1993.
"I feel fortunate and really blessed to be able to play this game and live a childhood dream out for 14 years -- and really, still be a kid a little bit," Tobeck said Monday after signing the inside wall of his locker and packing his belongings into a large garbage bag.
"I've overcome a lot of things ... what can I say? I feel lucky."
Tobeck missed the final 10 games of Seattle's season after what he first thought was a severe flu became an abscess that settled in his hip. He spent Thanksgiving weekend in a hospital taking intravenous antibiotics and lost 25 pounds.
He returned to practice earlier this month, but still hasn't gained all of his weight back. Seattle has since turned to its future by starting Chris Spencer, its first-round draft choice from 2005.
Quarterback Matt Hasselbeck, one of Tobeck's best friends on the team and frequent target of his many jokes, assumed some of Tobeck's responsibility for blocking calls immediately before plays during his center's absence. Coach Mike Holmgren said that overloaded Hasselbeck and may have contributed to his inconsistent play at the end of the season.
"In some ways, it will be easier for me," Hasselbeck said. "That's because I am always the butt of his jokes."
He credits Tobeck with establishing the team chemistry that has spawned three consecutive NFC West titles.
"He's meant a lot to this team," Hasselbeck said.
Holmgren said he'll miss Tobeck making him laugh, even when the coach was trying to stay serious through tense moments. Holmgren also admires how hard Tobeck worked to carve his now-former career.
"He really was, to me, a classic overachiever," Holmgren said.
Tobeck will become an insurance executive in the Seattle suburb of Bellevue. His first day of work is next week.
Soon after Tobeck signed with Seattle as a free agent before the 2000 season, Holmgren was particularly irked at a preseason practice. The coach pointed across the field to two players to whom he said he was giving full responsibility for improving performance: Tobeck and then-quarterback Trent Dilfer, who were on the sidelines next to each other.
Dilfer turned to Tobeck and said, "Man, I really hope someone is standing behind us."
No one was.
"Those are the types of stories I am going to miss," Tobeck said. "Those are classics.
"Really, the greatest thing about this game is the friends you make and the stories you'll take with you. You know, the money can come and go. But those relationships will always be with me."
Copyright 2007 by The Associated Press