I'd like to call Walter Payton ...

This winter I read one of Walter Payton's books and I liked the focus. It was not on his dominant style of play but on his outside passions of fundraising for kids and his family.

Walter Payton is football.

But he was much more, as a person and as a football icon, and I'd give a lot to have the ear of someone like that right now.

I'm feeling the rush: of the commitments I've made with coaching and the passion I have for this game against the terrible feeling I might need to retire because I don't always feel the same.

The other day when I couldn't practice, I wanted nothing but to be on the field. Now that I've come back to practice, I don't feel that way.

Daily I'm torn between the time commitment I need to make (Saturdays at coaches clinics and studying film, making phone calls for the golf fundraiser and even just waking up early to go to morning sessions) so that at the end of the day, I am investing in my future because I can't play forever.

Still, I feel I owe some of my teammates who have made me the player I am and have brought me to this place of richness because of football. But, it is with one foot in the past and one foot to the future that I'm stuck. I still want to achieve things with Atlanta, including a national championship victory.

I think maybe if I didn't have to see my teammates practicing, or ever attend another game where I feel that tug on my heart - it might be ok. I'm sure that's the pain my friends and former teammates feel when they are around. Maybe it's why most aren't around. Retirement is walking away - or walking somewhere else - and I'm not sure yet if I 'm ready to do either one.

Some of me wonders if it is because we are still very much at the beginning of the season - not yet running live action plays and still a few weeks out from our first game. I don't want to wait until I'm standing in line at the airport after our first game with bitterness wishing I would have chosen differently, because that's not fair to my team. If I go on much longer, I have to make the commitment - happy or not - because I owe them at least that much.

Between now and a decision, feel free to give Walter my number.

It's 67.


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