Tired of waiting for veteran linebacker Aaron Schobel to figure out whether to play or retire this season, the Buffalo Bills made the decision easier for him.
General manager Buddy Nix announced Monday that the Bills are moving on without their leading pass rusher by ruling out any chance that Schobel will be a member of the team this season.
"We're trying to get ready to play in 2010, and we think this is what we needed to do," Nix said. "There comes a point where we have to move forward and that point is today."
The decision was made five days into training camp in suburban Rochester, and after Nix, on Wednesday, provided no timetable in saying the team will keep the door for Schobel.
"He was not late on Wednesday," said Nix after informing Schobel's agent of the team's decision.
Schobel has four years left on a $50.5 million contract extension he signed in 2007, and will remain on the team's Reserve/Did Not Report List until deciding whether to retire or sign with another team, Nix said.
NFL Network Insider Jason La Canfora reports that Schobel is interested in pursuing playing options, according to a league source. Schobel had been leaning strongly toward returning and was even working on securing a home to rent in Buffalo for the season.
Schobel told The Associated Press in a phone interview from his home outside of Houston, that the Bills informed him that even if he wanted to come back at this point, he couldn't because the team would then release him.
"I understand it. I would've done the same thing if I was in their shoes," Schobel said. "I understand it 100 percent. I'm sort of relieved."
Schobel was still having difficulty making up his mind about playing even after he indicated last week that he had renewed interest to play. He broached the prospect of retirement at the end of last season, saying he wanted to spend more time with his family.
"I probably changed my mind 10 times about it this week," he said.
Schobel said he is not planning to retire, but will take a few weeks before making a decision.
"I don't know what I'll do," he said. Then, with a laugh, Schobel added: "I guess I've got to work on my golf game."
He did say if he does play, this would be his last NFL season.
"I have no regrets and I appreciate the organization, Buffalo, their fans and (Bills owner) Ralph (Wilson) for putting me in this position where I was able to play for nine years," he said. "I'm not going to say anything bad about them and I wish them the best."
Selected in the second round of the 2001 draft out of TCU, Schobel's 78 career sacks rank second on the team behind Hall of Famer Bruce Smith.
After playing his entire career at defensive end, Schobel would have had to move to linebacker as the Bills make the switch to a 3-4 defense being introduced by first-year head coach Chan Gailey.
Schobel would likely not have be a great fit in the 3-4 scheme but could well find a home with a 4-3 club. He was set to make $8 million with the Bills, and it's unlikely he would command that kind of money on the open market, but he is certainly willing to work something out with any interested organizations, La Canfora reports.
Schobel has spent his offseason in Texas and not taken part in any Bills activities.
Nix noted that Schobel was falling behind in learning the defense, and that the team had several players ready to fill the outside linebacker position. Aaron Maybin, the team's first-round draft pick last year, is considered the prime candidate to take over the starting job in Schobel's absence.
"We've got a lot of work to do," Maybin said. "When you lose a guy like Aaron Schobel, that definitely means that the rest of the guys in the position room have to definitely step it up."
Linebacker Chris Kelsay will miss Schobel, whom he regards as one of his closest friends on the team.
"It's tough," Kelsay said. "But I'm sure there's some relief on his part. Buddy and his staff just felt like it was time to move forward evidently. You can't argue with them because we've got a season to prepare for."
Nose tackle Kyle Williams also took the news in stride.
"Like Schobel's always said, that's the team's prerogative," Williams said. "I think he'll be fine either way. I think we'll be fine either way."
Schobel was due a $2 million roster bonus in March, which was not paid because he had not passed a physical. The team had not fined him for missing three days of mandatory minicamps in June or for the six training camp practices he's missed.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.