Updated: 12-15-06, 4 p.m.
Lewis made the comments to reporters about 24 hours after it was first announced that Pollack needs surgery to repair the fractured C-6 vertebra in his neck.
Lewis indicated that reports of Pollack's impending retirement are premature and that the club would have announced it Thursday instead of saying that there is no forecast yet for his return to football. He said that Pollack wanted his family and friends to know that the reports are inaccurate and that there has been no decision regarding his playing future and that there is still a long timeline.
Back in October Pollack said that if he needed surgery his career was over. But it's not clear if the surgery he is to get in a couple of weeks is what he was talking about. Pollack was referring to the fusion of two bones.
On Thursday, the Bengals said that "no forecast of Pollack's eventual return to football will be made at this time," and neither Pollack nor his doctor were available for comment. In an October conference call, Pollack said he thought surgery would end his career because the fusion of two vertebrae would heighten the chance of injury.
Last week Pollack expressed hope he could have a six-to-nine month rehab without surgery, but the operation most likely extends the rehab into at least early next season.
"One of the doctors told me not very many people walk away from a second broken neck," Pollack said in October. "That kind of hits home."
Pollack, a strong-side linebacker who was the club's first-round pick in the 2005 draft, fractured the C-6 vertebra in his neck on Sept. 17 when he tackled Cleveland running back Reuben Droughns on the second snap of the game for the Bengals defense.
Dr. Anthony Guanciale, director of orthopedic spine surgery at University of Cincinnati Hospital, examined Pollack on Thursday, a week after his halo brace was taken off and replaced by a neck brace.
Back in September, Guanciale told The Cincinnati Enquirer that immediate surgery would have prevented Pollack's return to football. It's unclear how a surgery in the next several weeks affects his playing career, but it apparently, at the very least, has lengthened the timeline if Pollack decides to play again.
Pollack, 24, has said since the injury that he's prepared for life without football.
"I've got a long way to go," is all he would say last week when asked about returning.
The speculation that Pollack is now going to retire ran rampant Thursday night but there was no official word from Pollack's camp. It's believed he'll meet with head coach Marvin Lewis before saying anything regarding this latest and perhaps last development of the Bengals' most star-crossed career since they took Ki-Jana Carter No. 1 10 years before Pollack.
After a training camp holdout, a sprained knee in midseason, a foot problem in the offseason and a hamstring injury in his next training camp all before the broken neck, Pollack has played just 16 NFL games.
The Bengals appear to have a long-term replacement in strong-side backer Rashad Jeanty, a rookie out of the Canadian Football League who is a year younger than Pollack. But Pollack's potential loss means the Bengals couldn't move him in as a possible replacement for Justin Smith at right end and it would probably halt any discussions of moving to a 3-4 base defense.
But the 10.5-sack season of Robert Geathers, a 4-3 defensive end, probably already ended that discussion. And Pollack's injury appears unrelated to the futures of Smith and Geathers in Cincinnati. Signing both long-term won't be easy.
It's unclear how Pollack's estimated $6.5 million bonus would be counted under the salary cap if he's forced to retire.