Morgan plans to rejoin Saints

TAMPA, Fla. -- Linebacker Dan Morgan, who retired last year after a series of injuries, said Monday he is planning to make a comeback in 2009.

Morgan told Monday he has filed his reinstatement papers with the NFL and plans to rejoin the New Orleans Saints, who still hold his rights. Morgan has said he has talked to the Saints and they seem interested in him playing.

Morgan, 31, retired last May before ever playing a game for the Saints, who had signed him as a free agent. Morgan spent the first seven seasons of his career with the Carolina Panthers, but his time and effectiveness there were disrupted by a string of injuries. Morgan's bad luck started in his rookie season (2001) when he broke his leg.

Repeated problems with concussions and other injuries followed. Morgan had at least five reported concussions since his college days at Miami and that factored into his decision to retire. Morgan had been cleared for a return to football for 2008, but the Panthers released him and he signed with New Orleans. After spending much of the offseason program with the Saints, Morgan said he retired because of health issues and family concerns.

But Morgan said Monday he's completely healthy and is eager to make a return to the Saints. He also said his other injury problems played more of a role in his initial decision to retire than the concussions.

"I feel better than I have at any point since before my rookie season in the NFL," Morgan said by telephone from Charlotte, N.C. "I've been working out very hard and I feel great. Last year, I was down in New Orleans and I was coming off shoulder problems and my wife was pregnant with our third child and back in Charlotte. It just didn't feel like the right place or the right time and I made the decision to retire. But the year off has refreshed me and I'm very anxious to get back out there."

Although studies have suggested concussions can lead to long-term health problems, Morgan he has consulted with numerous doctors and doesn't see any problem with playing again.

"Yes, I know I've had some concussions," Morgan said. "But I think the public has kind of blown that out of proportion. They don't know my exact situation. My concussions weren't severe. I never had the bad headaches or the memory loss that they talk about in those studies. I've seen all those studies and talked about them at length with my doctors and I feel good about the situation.

"Believe me, I have three young children and if I were at all concerned about this, I wouldn't be going back on the field," he said.

Morgan is about to open two restaurants in Charlotte -- a coal-fire pizza restaurant and a diner are scheduled to open in February. Morgan has spent much of his time working to get those businesses ready. But he has also spent much of his time off working out.

Morgan said he began to get seriously involved in distance running shortly after his retirement. He even registered to run in a marathon but backed out of that and slowed down on his training once he started thinking about a return to football.

Morgan said he didn't want to lose too much weight and he's focused now on strength and flexibility training.

Saints officials couldn't be reached for comment immediately Monday, but Morgan could be a boost for a defense that struggled most of last season. The Saints initially signed Morgan, who had played his entire career at middle linebacker, to play outside linebacker. The Saints brought in middle linebacker Jonathan Vilma as their middle linebacker and he was one of the few bright spots on the defense that struggled last year.

"I've been talking with the Saints and it sounds like I'll be back with them," Morgan said. "We'll see what happens. If for some reason they don't want me, I will play elsewhere. I'm not in a position where I can dictate things right now. But I can tell you that whoever I play for will be getting one heck of a football player."

Morgan played in only three games for the Panthers in 2007 before he was sidelined by an ankle injury. He played in only one game in 2006 before taking the rest of that season off after experiencing a concussion in the preseason and in the season opener.

"Really, the concussions haven't been an issue since 2006," Morgan said. "I was cleared to play in 2007 and that wasn't really why I retired. I feel good about this. It's been three years since I have had a concussion and I've dealt with the best doctors in the world and have taken and will continue to take every precaution."