Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Was Loss the End for Bettis? Steelers' Running Back Will Consider Retirement after Sting of Title Game Defeat Wears Off

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Was Loss the End for Bettis? Steelers' Running Back Will Consider Retirement after Sting of Title Game Defeat Wears Off

Article excerpt

Byline: Michael DiRocco, The Times-Union

PITTSBURGH -- Steelers running back Jerome Bettis doesn't know if he's going to play football next season.

What he does know, though, is that it hurts too much today to even try to begin deliberating on whether the 2004 NFL season was his last. The sting of losing Sunday's AFC Championship Game at home to New England will have to fade before that happens.

"Right now I just want to take some time away and really give it some thought,'' said Bettis, who rushed for 64 yards and a touchdown on 17 carries. "I've got to sit down with my family and take some time and just get away from this loss.''

This is the third time Bettis has had to spend the beginning of his off-season recovering from an AFC Championship game loss. That, plus how he feels physically, are the two factors that will determine whether he comes back for his 13th season.

"I'll look at it and let my body tell me what I need to do,'' said Bettis, who is fifth on the NFL's all-time rushing list (13,294 yards). "Physically, if I can come back and be as productive as I was this year, that's something I would like to do. If I can't, I don't want to be out there and take away from this football team.

"If the decision is for me to come back, I want to come back 100 percent and totally committed to this team.''

Even if Bettis can't match his 2004 production (941 yards, 13 touchdowns), his teammates want him back, guard Alan Faneca said.

"JB is the heart of this team,'' Faneca said. "I hope he comes back.''

That 0-3 record in the AFC Championship game might be the thing that brings him back, Bettis said, or the thing that haunts him.

"It's one of those situations that you say to yourself, 'This could have been my last opportunity, and it was a missed opportunity,' '' Bettis said. "If that is the case, it's something that you have to live with. …

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