Mack Strong ended up in the emergency room after returning from Pittsburgh on Sunday night. The trip had nothing to do with the neck injury...

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KIRKLAND — Mack Strong ended up in the emergency room after returning from Pittsburgh on Sunday night.

The trip had nothing to do with the neck injury that caused the Seahawks fullback to call it a career, though.

“Actually, my wife had a real bad headache,” Strong said. “I had to take her to the emergency room when I got home.”

That’s Strong. Always leading the way for someone else. It’s how he stayed in the NFL for 15 years. He performed one of the most selfless jobs in football and played that position so well he was chosen for the Pro Bowl twice and started in the Super Bowl in 2006.

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Strong and wide receiver Deion Branch suffered injuries during Sunday’s game in Pittsburgh. Branch has a midfoot sprain that will keep him out of the next two games. Strong’s injury is more serious.

He suffered a herniated disk that was pinching his spinal cord. He left the game in the first half after the kind of collision that is part of his job. He felt his hands tingling and some burning in his arms and legs and some patches of numbness. He returned later in the half only to have an another innocuous hit cause the symptoms to return.

Tests discovered an injury to a vertebrae in Strong’s neck.

“There’s no messing around with it,” coach Mike Holmgren said.

The injury made walking away from football an easy, albeit emotional, choice for Strong.

“The decision has been made for me,” he said. “I think you’re always kind of in flux about when should I hang ’em up? When should I call it quits?

“It’s a no-brainer.”

Strong, 36, doesn’t expect to need surgery and said the injury won’t impact his quality of life.

He came to Seattle in 1993 as an undrafted rookie from Georgia. He arrived to play for a team that won two games the year before and ended up reaching the playoffs four consecutive seasons and making the Pro Bowl twice.

“If somebody would have told me all that would have been waiting for me at the end of my career, I’m like, ‘You’re nuts,’ ” Strong said. “I feel like I’ve been extremely blessed.”

Strong had to stop twice as he answered questions Monday. He looked away from the television cameras and reporters gathered around him to blink back tears and keep from choking up.

He talked about the future, his interest in working as a broadcaster and his belief that life only gets better. He talked about the past, recalling how he borrowed his mother’s luggage and stuffed his tennis shoes into a garbage bag for his first trip to Seattle.

“You talk about humble beginnings,” Strong said.

It’s tough for an NFL team to find a fullback like Strong anymore. The player strong enough to block like a sledgehammer yet selfless enough to open holes for teammates instead of wanting to run through them himself.

“You don’t get to carry the ball,” Holmgren said. “You don’t get to meet all the cheerleaders. You’re sacrificing for the team.”

Every year it seemed the Seahawks drafted someone to compete for Strong’s job. Chris Davis. Heath Evans. Tony Jackson. They all came and went.

Leonard Weaver now steps into Strong’s role as the starting fullback. Like Strong, Weaver entered the league undrafted. Strong helped groom him.

That was Strong. Selfless right up to the night of his final game in the NFL when he returned from Pittsburgh and ended up tending to his wife in the emergency room.

Career statistics
A look at the fullback’s career with the Seahawks:
Season Team G Rsh Yds Avg TD Rec Yds Avg TD Fum-L
1994 Seattle 8 27 114 4.2 2 3 3 1.0 0 1-1
1995 Seattle 16 8 23 2.9 1 12 117 9.8 3 1-0
1996 Seattle 14 5 8 1.6 0 9 78 8.7 0 0-0
1997 Seattle 16 4 8 2.0 0 13 91 7.0 2 0-0
1998 Seattle 16 15 47 3.1 0 8 48 6.0 2 2-2
1999 Seattle 14 1 0 0.0 0 1 5 5.0 0 0-0
2000 Seattle 16 3 9 3.0 0 23 141 6.1 1 0-0
2001 Seattle 16 17 55 3.2 0 17 141 8.3 0 0-0
2002 Seattle 16 23 94 4.1 0 22 120 5.5 2 0-0
2003 Seattle 16 37 174 4.7 1 29 216 7.4 0 1-1
2004 Seattle 16 36 131 3.6 0 21 99 4.7 0 2-1
2005 Seattle 16 17 78 4.6 0 22 166 7.5 0 0-0
2006 Seattle 16 33 149 4.5 1 29 159 5.5 0 2-2
2007 Seattle 5 4 19 4.8 0 9 72 8.0 0 0-0
Career 201 230 909 4.0 5 218 1,456 6.7 10 9-7

Notes

• Because of Branch’s absence, Holmgren said Seattle will decide whether to move Bobby Engram from the slot-receiver role into the starting flanker spot. Ben Obomanu played flanker after Branch’s injury Sunday. Rookie Courtney Taylor is expected to be active for Sunday’s game against New Orleans.

• WR D.J. Hackett has not played since suffering a high ankle sprain during the season opener, but Holmgren said the hope is he will be back for the Oct. 21 game against St. Louis.