TAMPA, Fla. — Carl Nicks’ time with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers is over.
The team and the two-time Pro Bowl guard announced a separation Friday afternoon, shortly after the Bucs began their first training camp practice at One Buc Place. The oft-injured Nebraska product never lived up to his promise after signing a five-year, $47.5 million deal in free agency before the 2012 season.
"I’d like to thank the Buccaneers organization for working with me as I have attempted to get myself back on the football field," Nicks said in a statement. "However, after careful consideration, I have made the decision to step away from the game. This was by no means an easy decision, but I believe that it is what is best for me and my family as well as the Tampa Bay Buccaneers."
Nicks, 29, was excused Thursday from the Bucs’ reporting day, and coach Lovie Smith described the absence as because of "personal reasons." Nicks was absent again from the facility Friday as the lone player who hadn’t reported for training camp. He was seen observing during the Bucs’ mandatory minicamp in the offseason and had hoped to be ready for training camp, after trying to recover from a serious bout with MRSA in his left foot.
Nicks played in 73 games (70 starts) in a six-year career with the New Orleans Saints (2008-2011) and Bucs (2012-13). He made the Pro Bowl after the 2010 and 2011 seasons. He only appeared in nine games with Tampa Bay, with just two appearances last year.
Bucs general manager Jason Licht declined to give specifics about Nicks’ settlement with the franchise. He said Nicks will not be placed on the reserve list, and Licht added that a dialogue with Nicks about the possibility for the decision had been ongoing before Friday. Licht said the Bucs were prepared for Nicks’ decision.
"Carl was an elite player," Licht said. "Sometimes, these prideful, elite players — if they don’t feel they’re 100 percent, they don’t want to expose themselves. … He wants to give us his best, and he felt he couldn’t be honest with us unless he was giving us his 100 percent.
"The whole time, we’ve been hopeful that Carl could play. Carl was honest with us. We were honest with him. There were open lines of communication. If he was able to play, it would have been a bonus for us."
Nicks’ tenure with Tampa Bay will be recalled for unmet potential. His signing represented a coup for then-general manager Mark Dominik in an attempt to build the Bucs into a threat for the Saints and other contenders in the NFC South. He was limited to seven games in 2012 because of a torn plantar plate in his left foot, and then surgery was required last season to clean out the MRSA, a serious staph infection resistant to some antibiotics.
Though Nicks was never seen during the voluntary portion of the Bucs’ offseason work this year, there were signs that he was hoping to return. He was limited to jogging and rehab drills. He said he was prepared to live with the pain and nerve damage the rest of his life.
Nicks’ absence means more change within the Bucs’ offensive line, which has already experienced an overhaul under Smith. Oniel Cousins, Jamon Meredith and Patrick Omameh are likely starting options at guard with Nicks gone.
"I regret not having the opportunity to work with Carl, but I understand and support his decision to do what is best for him and his family," Smith said in a statement. "I know Carl gave this decision a lot of careful consideration, and I appreciate his honesty through this process."