Schobel might return to Bills after flirting with retirement

PITTSFORD, N.Y. -- Aaron Schobel, the Buffalo Bills' leading pass rusher, is considering playing one more year after spending the offseason contemplating retirement.

That doesn't mean he has made up his mind yet. Speaking by phone from his home in Texas on Wednesday, Schobel confirmed to The Associated Press that he intends to make a decision by the middle of August when it's time for his children to begin attending school.

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"I'm not saying yes. I'm not saying no," Schobel said.

Schobel spoke on the day that Bills players began arriving in suburban Rochester to report for training camp, which opens Thursday. The two-time Pro Bowl selection has spent all nine of his NFL seasons in Buffalo, and his 78 career sacks rank second on the team behind Hall of Famer Bruce Smith.

One factor in Schobel's decision is the Bills wanting him back in the fold. Schobel has four years left on a $50.5 million contract extension that he signed in 2007, including a $2 million roster bonus he was due in March.

"I'm thinking if I want to do it, and they want me to do it, then I'll do it," said Schobel, who noted that he hasn't had any contact with the team. "The Bills might tell me to get lost. And I'd understand it if they did that."

Schobel didn't attend any of the team's offseason workout programs and practices, including a three-day mandatory minicamp a month ago.

Bills general manager Buddy Nix said the door remains open.

"Absolutely," Nix said. "He's a good football player. You'd like to have him. What we'll do is we'll react according to what he does. If he comes, fine. If he doesn't, fine. It's up to him."

Nix said he learns of Schobel's plans through the media.

The Bills have Schobel listed in their 2010 media guide, which was released to reporters Wednesday.

Should he return, Schobel would have to make the switch from defensive end to linebacker in the 3-4 defense that first-year coach Chan Gailey has installed this offseason.

The possibility of Schobel playing this season would mark a major change of heart after he sold his Buffalo-area home this spring and relocated his family back to his native Texas.

Along with wanting to spend more time with his family, Schobel was fed up with the team's performance. The Bills haven't made the playoffs during his tenure and enjoyed only one winning season, a 9-7 finish in 2004, during that span.

Schobel also was concerned about the toll that injuries and the wear and tear of another football season would have on his body once he is done playing. Last month, Schobel was so prepared to retire that he informed the Bills -- through the media -- that they should prepare to move on without him.

"A month ago, I was not playing," Schobel said, noting he spent much of last season "irritated with football."

Schobel's mood began to soften as the NFL season approached and he spoke to his wife about the possibility of playing. Schobel also began missing the camaraderie he has developed with fellow veteran defensive linemen, specifically noting Chris Kelsay, Marcus Stroud and Kyle Williams.

"I just needed some time," Schobel said. "The last couple of weeks, I started thinking, 'It ain't so bad.' ... Maybe it's the midweek blues, I don't know."

Also factoring into Schobel's decision is whether he has enough time to relocate his family back to Buffalo and is able to get his children into the same school they've attended in the past.

That's a switch after Schobel, in March, said he was open to the possibility of living alone in Buffalo and traveling to Texas to be with his family on days off. He realized that the travel would wear him out.

One thing Schobel is certain of is this will be his last season.

"I'll be 33 in September and I've got to get on with my life," he said.

Schobel apologized for wavering on his decision, but he said it's one he doesn't take lightly.

"I know I'm probably annoying people, but you've got to be 100 percent committed to this," Schobel said. "I apologize to the people I've irritated. But I guess I can't please everyone."

Copyright 2010 by The Associated Press

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