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Will Holt bolt at the end of his contract?
By Jim Thomas

Torry Holt raised eyebrows three weeks ago when he talked about reuniting with his brother Terrence — a safety for the Carolina Panthers — when the final two years of his Rams contract were up.

"I wanted to just send in my resignation to the Rams and join him down here," Holt told Raleigh, N.C., television station WRAL with a laugh. "What better place to come and play football than in your home state?' "

Holt made the remarks at a charity golf tournament he and his brother held in North Carolina. Terrence signed as a free agent with Carolina earlier this offseason after spending the 2007 season with Arizona.

To a degree, it was clear Holt was joking, particularly the remark about "resigning" from the Rams. But on Saturday, in his first comments to St. Louis reporters since the end of the 2007 season, it was clear that Holt is taking a realistic view about his future with the Rams.

"I have this year and next year, and hopefully I can finish those years out," Holt said at the conclusion of the day's minicamp practice. "Then, I'll see where I'm at. I'll see where I'm at physically. I'll see where I'm at emotionally, financially.

"And then, if they would like to do something here, I'll consider it. If not, then I'll have the option to go and explore and give my services somewhere else. So if that happens, Carolina will definitely be the first choice — no question about it. But I have '08 and '09 left to play, and that's what I plan on doing."

It is a dream for many players, particularly those who have experienced great success in professional sports, to finish their career with the team that brought them into the pros. Holt, a native of Greensboro, N.C., was drafted No. 6 overall by St. Louis in 1999.

Since then, he has made seven Pro Bowls, played in two Super Bowls, caught a touchdown pass in a Super Bowl and established himself as one of the most productive wide receivers in NFL history.

But after watching longtime teammate Isaac Bruce's unceremonious release 2˝ months ago, it is clear that Holt isn't betting the mortgage on a fairy-tale finish in St. Louis.

When asked about the prospect of finishing his career in St. Louis, Holt said, "I welcome that."

But he added: "I'm pretty sure there were guys before me that welcomed that. It doesn't always work out that way. So I'm going to take it year by year. I know for sure, hopefully, I have this year, so I'm going to play this year and see how things go from there."

Those familiar with Holt said he was taken aback — even shocked — at Bruce's release this offseason. On Saturday, Holt played it down the middle when asked about life without Bruce at Rams Park.

"It's been really different," Holt said. "You could always count on Isaac to come in and be ready to roll and get ready for the season. Not to see his locker in there, and not to see him out on the football field. Not to see him in the stretching and the drills. He's always the one at the front of the line getting things going. ... It's going to take some getting used to."

Before this week, Holt sightings have been rare at Rams Park since the start of the offseason conditioning program in late March. He has been in St. Louis for a good portion of that time but has chosen not to work out at Rams Park.

"Since I had the (knee) surgery last year, I went right to rehab, then I played 16 (games) and then went over and played in the Pro Bowl," Holt said. "So I just wanted to kind of step back and get some rest — not only for my knee, just for my overall body.

"And from a mental standpoint, just kind of get away and relax. Get away from the building, and get away from football for a while, so I can come back with a fresh mind and give the guys and my teammates what it is they need."

Holt, by the way, says his knee is feeling much better than it did a year ago at this time.

Coach Scott Linehan normally is a stickler for players attending the offseason program. Tight end Brandon Manumaleuna's aversion to training in St. Louis in March and April is one reason he was traded to San Diego following the 2005 season. But for a player with Holt's longevity and accomplishments, Linehan is willing to bend the rules.

"Torry's earned the privilege of doing things the way that work for him," Linehan said. "At this point in his career, he's really got to manage how he feels, to get himself back for the long season.

"You're not going to get every player here (for the offseason program). Your goal is that every player utilizes the opportunity to do the offseason program. But Torry's a seven-time Pro Bowler who knows how to get himself ready for the season."