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February 22, 2006 - Primeau not ready to quit yet

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Primeau not ready to quit yet

By Rob Parent
Inquirer Staff Writer

Keith Primeau clearly stated yesterday that he is getting better. He no longer has trouble hearing the television or seeing the road through his windshield.

What Primeau - who is still the Flyers' captain even though the "C" seems permanently stitched to Derian Hatcher's jersey - cannot sell himself on is the idea that lingering concussion symptoms will keep him shelved until at least next season, if not forever.

"That's a decision I don't have to make yet," Primeau said about retiring because of post-concussion syndrome.

But he admitted to "delaying my decision" to announce that he won't return to play this season. That's something everyone has expected to hear, but Primeau said he might do so only if forced to.

"I'm just having such a hard time with the finality of it," the 34-year-old center said. "I can't commit. I don't know if I'll ever be able to say it.

"I guess I'll just keep going along to my therapy, and eventually someone is going to grab me by the arm and say, 'Make your decision or we'll make it for you.' "

Primeau said he is grateful that the Flyers haven't pushed him into anything, although team doctors, general manager Bob Clarke and chairman Ed Snider have told him that sitting out through the summer would be best.

"I told Keith that I'd personally like to see him come back only if he's 100 percent healthy," Snider said in a recent interview. "His whole life is at stake here."

Primeau has tried to tell himself that, too.

"I'm really trying to convince myself that this isn't a decision to make; it's an attempt to prolong my career and eventually return to the ice," he said. "If I felt I could return to the ice and not feel [symptoms], I'd say to [team doctors], 'Let me have a crack.' But if I want to continue to play, I should get my head right and see how it goes. This would buy me an extra eight months to prepare me for the fall."

Primeau said he thought he would have to play some games in the regular season rather than just return for the playoffs, but doing so would mean coming off injured reserve. And then his salary would count against the cap.

Hence, the Flyers' urgency in resolving the matter.

And what if Primeau's head still is spinning in September? Would the decision then carry career implications rather than seasonal ones?

"I guess it really does become that then," he said. "You'd be talking about a full year that I'd missed because of head trauma. I'd have to be realistic about my health."

Primeau had planned to return from a weekend skiing trip and call Clarke to discuss possibly setting up a season-ending announcement. But as of yesterday, he still was hoping that ongoing exercises, acupuncture and chiropractic treatments "could somehow get things to turn for me.

"I want to let [Clarke] know what I plan to do," Primeau said, "but I've been procrastinating."

He won't place that call until he makes his own call.

Though Flyers doctors have told Primeau they won't clear him this season, he said he still has time - albeit limited - to reach a point where he is symptom-free for at least two weeks. That would be the only way to try to convince the doctors he could play.

On a positive note, Primeau said his occasional inability to focus on simple tasks, such as concentrating on a TV program, has faded away. Also improved are vision problems - a sensitivity to movement and light.