FORT WORTH, Texas (AP) â€” Michael Irvin, one of the NFL's great receivers, has been advised by doctors to stop playing football because of a spinal condition and plans to retire, the Fort Worth Star-Telegram reported today.
The Dallas Cowboys' all-time leading receiver is uncertain when he will announce his retirement, the newspaper said.
The member of the Cowboys' organization, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said Irvin has spinal stenosis, a congenital condition that could cause permanent paralysis, and he met with the player about it at the team's training headquarters the past week.
``I know it's hard on him,'' Dallas running back Emmitt Smith said Monday. ``It's hard on any man that has to put down the game in the fashion that he has to put it down. It's a tough situation. ... Nobody wants to go out like that.''
Cowboys spokesman Brett Daniels said the team has not heard anything official from Irvin and the decision is up to him.
The Cowboys have already moved to replace Irvin in the lineup with their February trade for Joey Galloway.
The 34-year-old Irvin does not have to make a retirement decision by next week when teams announce their June cuts. Cornerback Deion Sanders is expected to be cut because of the salary cap.
Irvin has established himself over 12 seasons as one of the NFL's best receivers. His final catch was the 750th of his career, tying him for No. 9 in league history.
But Irvin hasn't played since sustaining temporary paralysis after slamming his head into the ground following a catch Oct. 10 in Philadelphia. He later learned he has a genetic condition â€” a narrow spinal cord â€” that makes him more susceptible to serious injury if he takes another blow to the head or neck.
The neck problems forced Irvin to go on injured reserve Dec. 4, ending his season.
Irvin holds every significant receiving record for the Cowboys and is 10th in receptions and yards in NFL history.
The 11th pick overall in the 1988 draft, Irvin signed a six-year contract extension worth $22 million last season before becoming a free agent.