Even before last week's comments to the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, it appeared as if retirement could be in the cards for veteran offensive lineman Mark Tauscher.
In an interview back in May for the upcoming Maple Street Press 2011 Packers Annual, former Packers offensive lineman and current radio and television broadcaster Larry McCarren brought up retirement as a possibility for Tauscher.
"Mark Tauscher, I'm not so sure about, having injury problems coming back last year and spent the season on I.R.," said McCarren. "They haven't officially announced anything, but they're at the point where they may be encouraging him to retire."
Nothing is etched in stone, but Tauscher appears to face long odds if he were to regain a starting position along the offensive line.
Bryan Bulaga had an up-and-down rookie season last year, but played exceptionally well over the course of the final six-game must-win stretch of the regular season and playoffs cementing himself as the favorite for a starting position at right tackle going forward.
Options do exist that could see Bulaga move to the left side of the line this season, which would open up a spot at right tackle, although those possibilities seem far fetched at this point.
Tauscher has three factors working against him, age, injuries and his contract.
Not only would he enter 2011 as his 12th season in the NFL, he's also coming off a year that saw his season ended on injured reserve with a shoulder issue. And his injury history is growing. Tauscher's 2008 season was ended with an ACL tear in his knee.
The veteran offensive lineman told the Journal Sentinel that his rehab is going well, he's regaining strength in his shoulder and that he feels good, however, he would still seem to have a long way to go.
On top of that, Tauscher's $4.1 million 2011 salary will make him difficult to keep around. As we examined here on Cheesehead TV last month, the Packers are likely candidates to trim millions of dollars in payroll if a salary cap returns, which is a distinct probability, and Tauscher stands to be one of the targets.
Even if Tauscher wanted to accept a job as a backup, he'd probably have to restructure his contract to do so.
The grim reality is that his career could end in awkward fashion if Tauscher chooses to come back and the Packers are forced to cut him. On the other hand, he could go out on top with retirement and a Super Bowl ring (appropriate, given the Packers are receiving their rings in a ceremony this evening).
Either way, Tauscher will always be a fan favorite. He played his entire career from high school to college to the professional ranks all in the state of Wisconsin, a rarity among pro athletes. And at some future point in time, he'll probably be inducted into the Packers Hall of Fame.
Considering those factors, it stands to reason that Packers fans would probably rather see Tauscher's career end with retirement sooner rather than later.
According to Tauscher, he's still weighing his options.
“Honestly I’m just rehabbing my shoulder and trying to play some golf…When the lockout ends I’m sure I’ll get things figured out, one way or another, and see where we’re at," Tauscher told the Journal Sentinel.
One reason he has yet to make up his mind could be because of the lockout itself. Tauscher has been heavily involved with the Players Union as a team representative, and it's possible he wants to see a new Collective Bargaining Agreement before walking off into the sunset.
It is curious to note that Greg Jennings planned a surprise celebration for Tauscher at the wide receiver's annual golf tournament last week, which coincided with governor Scott Walker declaring it "Mark Tauscher Day" in the state of Wisconsin.
Could it be that Jennings and the rest of the team were honoring Tauscher and an impending retirement without public knowledge?
Neither Mark Tauscher nor his representatives responded to an opportunity to comment on the possibility of retirement for this column.
Brian Carriveau is the editor of the Maple Street Press Packers Annual. To contact Brian, email firstname.lastname@example.org.
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