CONCORD, N.C. -- It's been nearly a month since the Carolina Panthers ended their season, but defensive end Mike Rucker still hasn't decided if he'll retire.
"I'm still relaxing," Rucker said Thursday while attending a news conference about a new dragstrip at Lowe's Motor Speedway. "I do feel we are getting close to a decision."
The 32-year-old Rucker has been hinting for some time that he may walk away from the game. He teared up as he walked off the field during Carolina's final home game on Dec. 22. He's openly questioned whether his body can withstand another NFL season.
Rucker's contract expired at the end of the season
"Do I want to come back?" Rucker asked himself. "Do I want to do all of that hard work to get back out there?"
Carolina's second-round pick in 1999, Rucker has started 107 games. He's second in team history in tackles and sacks. But Rucker's numbers declined this season, and he had to work throughout last year's offseason to recover from major knee surgery.
Even if Rucker wanted to return, it might have to be in a backup role.
Rucker said he's heading to Mobile, Ala. this weekend to watch his brother, Martin, play in the Senior Bowl. A tight end from Missouri, Martin Rucker hopes to be selected early in April's draft.
Having a chance to be in the NFL at the same time as his brother is also factoring into Mike Rucker's decision.
"To be part of that, it was something Mom always wanted," Rucker said. "Being 10 years apart, you don't necessarily think that's going to be possible. It would be great to be able to do that.
"But we've got to figure out what will that cost. What will that entail to do that? That's where you weigh those options."