Friday, February 10, 2012

Gold Watches and Golf Clubs: 2011 NFL Retirees

As I mentioned in my last post, there are a lot of things to keep the NFL’s coaches and general managers busy in the coming weeks and months.  However, some players are busy getting ready for the offseason, too—by retiring.  I’d thought we take a moment to look at some of the notable retirements that have already been announced, and a few more that are likely, and some you should keep on your radar.

By the way, in case you were wondering, the oldest player currently in the league is Houston punter Matt Turk.  He’s 43 years old, the only active player born in the 1960’s.  He has no plans to retire.

Proving that great minds think alike, here is a link to a great article published by ESPN yesterday on its site, discussing the decision making process for players contemplating retirement:

Announced Retirements:

Jason Taylor, Defensive End/OLB (Miami Dolphins, 1997-2007, 2009 and 2011; Washington Redskins, 2008 and New York Jets, 2010):  Jason Taylor attended the University of Akron and was drafted in the third round by the Miami Dolphins in the 1997 draft.  A tremendous athlete and active in the community, Taylor has made a tremendous impact both on and off the field.  He earned his way into the Dolphins’ starting lineup as a defensive end his rookie year and made his first Pro Bowl in 2000.  He returned to the Pro Bowl in 2002 after leading the league in sacks, with 18.5*.  In 2006 he won NFL Defensive Player of the Year after the best season of his career.  Even though his moved around during his career, Taylor was selected to six Pro Bowls and was named either First or Second Team All-Pro four times. 

Off the field, Jason Taylor has also made his mark as a community activist.  He and his wife Katina founded the James Taylor Foundation in 2004 to help the children of South Florida.  Among its programs are an after-school literacy program, scholarships and back-to-school shopping funds.  Taylor’s work to improve the community has been widely recognized and he received the prestigious Walter Payton Man of the Year Award in 2007.  Dancing With the Stars fans will also remember that he was the Runner-Up of Season 6.

Ricky Williams, Running Back (New Orleans Saints, 1999-2001; Miami Dolphins, 2002-2003, 2005; Toronto Argonauts (CFL), 2006; Miami, 2007-2010 and Baltimore, 2011):  Ricky Williams was a Heisman Trophy winner at the University of Texas and was drafted fifth overall by the New Orleans Saints in the 1999 draft.  Like Jason Taylor, Williams moved around the league quite a bit, but for very different reasons.  Entering the draft after a phenomenal college career, Williams was considered a highly-valued asset for any team.  In fact, New Orleans’ head coach at the time, the legendary Mike Ditka, wanted Williams so badly that he traded all of the Saints’ picks in the 1999 draft so he could move up in the draft to get him.  Though he had three successful seasons with the Saints, rushing for over 1,000 yards in 2000 and 2001, he didn’t quite live up to the expectations that came with being a team’s ONLY draft pick.  Ricky earned his first Pro Bowl selection after his first season with the Dolphins, when he led the league in rushing with an incredible 1,853 yards.

Unfortunately, Williams’ career was marred by repeated substance abuse issues.  He has admitted that he turned to marijuana to help treat his depression and social anxiety disorder, after prescription treatments didn’t seem to be effective.  After his first positive test for marijuana in 2003, Williams announced his retirement from football only days before Dolphins training camp began in the summer of 2004.  He spent that season studying holistic medicine in California, which he says allowed him to “find himself.”  After the 2005 season, however, he found himself suspended for the entire 2006 season due to his fourth violation of the NFL’s drug policy.  The Canadian Football League took him in, and under a cloud of controversy, he played one season for the Toronto Argonauts.  He briefly returned to the Dolphins in 2007 before he was injured in a game and sidelined for the rest of the season.  He continued with the team until this past season when he signed with the Baltimore Ravens.

Derrick Mason, Wide Receiver (Tennessee Titans, 1997-2004; Baltimore Ravens, 2005-2010; New York Jets/Houston Texans, 2011):  Derrick Mason attended Michigan State and was drafted in the fourth round of the 1997 draft by the Tennessee Titans (then the Tennessee Oilers).  He began making an impact right away, playing in all 16 games of his rookie season as a wide receiver.  In 1998 he began returning kicks and in 1999 he gained over 1,000 yards as a kick returner.  His multi-tasking led him to break the NFL record for all-purpose yards in 2000, with a total of 2,535 yards.  This record was broken this past season by Darren Sproles, who had 2,696 all-purpose yards.  He actually still hold the record, set in 1999, for the most return yards in a single postseason, with 437 yards.  His success continued in Baltimore, where he became the first player in that team’s history to have 100 receptions in a season.  Mason earned two Pro Bowl appearances in his career.

Olin Kreutz, Center (Chicago Bears, 1998-2010; New Orleans Saints, 2011):  Olin Kreutz attended the University of Washington and was drafted by the Bears in the third round of the 1998 draft.  Over the course of his career, he has been selected to the Pro Bowl six times, named an All-Pro four times and was included on the NFL’s All-Decade Team for the 2000s.  When he left Chicago for New Orleans for the 2011 season, he was the longest tenured Bear.

Al Harris, Cornerback (Tampa Bay Buccaneers, 1997; Philadelphia Eagles, 1998-2002; Green Bay Packers, 2003-2010; Miami Dolphins, 2010 and St. Louis Rams, 2011):  Al Harris attended Texas A&M University-Kingsville and was drafted by the Buccaneers in the six round of the 1997 draft.  However, he did not make the Tampa Bay team, residing instead on its practice squad, and went to the Philadelphia Eagles in 1998.  He spent four seasons in Philadelphia before being traded to the Green Bay Packers, where he really hit his stride, turning in impressive performances at cornerback for several seasons.  In the overtime period of the 2003 NFC wildcard game, Harris intercepted a pass from Seattle Seahawks quarterback Matt Hasselbeck and returned it 52 yards for the game-winning score.**   Unfortunately, Harris was plagued with injuries the last few years.  His last game was November 13, 2011, when, playing against the Cleveland Browns, he suffered a torn ACL.  Harris was selected to the Pro Bowl twice, as a Packer.

Jon Kitna, Quarterback (Seattle Seahawks, 1997-2000; Cincinnati Bengals, 2001-2005; Detroit Lions, 2006-2008; and Dallas Cowboys, 2009-2011):  Jon Kitna attended Central Washington University, but was not drafted into the NFL.  Instead, he began his football career playing for the Barcelona Dragons in 1997, leading that club to the World Bowl Championship before being signed by the Seahawks as a free agent in 1997.  He enjoyed a completely average career in Seattle before being signed by the Bengals in 2001, again as a free agent; he was named NFL Comeback Player of the Year in 2003.  Forever the place-holder, Kitna soon became a mentor to young Carson Palmer who eventually replaced him as starting QB.  Never the subject of a blockbuster trade, Kitna became a free agent again in 2006, landing in Detroit, where he started every game for two years.  In 2009, he was finally traded—to the Cowboys to be the back-up to Dallas’ star Tony Romo.

Likely Retirements:

Bob Sanders, Safety (Indianapolis Colts, 2004-2010; San Diego Chargers, 2011-present):  Though, currently a Charger, Sanders will always be considered a Colt.  He had a tremendous, though injury-riddled, career for the Colts, who drafted him in the second round of the 2004 draft out of the University of Iowa.  After playing only nine games in the previous three seasons, the Colts released Sanders in 2010 and he was picked up by the Chargers.  His season ended on September 28th after knee swelling forced him onto the injured reserve list.  It is widely believed that he will announce his retirement this offseason.

Jeff Saturday, Center (Indianapolis Colts, 1999-present):  Jeff Saturday attended the University of North Carolina and was signed by the Baltimore Ravens as an undrafted free agent in 1998.  However, he was soon released by the Ravens and was signed by the Colts in 1999.  He became the starting center in 2000 and was the model of consistency, appearing in 85 consecutive games until he was sidelined for two games in 2004 with an injury.  Over his career, Saturday has been selected to the Pro Bowl five times and named an All-Pro four times.  Though there has been no announcement regarding retirement, the Colts organization has stated that they would like to keep him involved in the team’s front office should he decide to retire.

Veteran Quarterbacks:

All three of these veteran QBs, each of whom have had long and productive careers, had already retired from the NFL before this season started.  They were each called back to help their respective teams work through injuries to their starting quarterbacks: 

Kerry Collins:   attended Penn State, was drafted fifth overall by the Panthers.  Played for: Carolina Panthers, 1995-1998; New Orleans Saints, 1998; New York Giants, 1999-2003; Oakland Raiders, 2004-2005; Tennessee Titans, 2006-2010; and Indianapolis Colts, 2011-present.  Season ended with a concussion on October 25, 2011.

Jake Delhomme:  attended University of Southwestern Louisiana and signed by New Orleans as an undrafted free agent.  Played for:  New Orleans, 1997-1998; in NFL Europe 1998-1999; New Orleans, 1999-2002; Carolina Panthers, 2003-2009; Cleveland Browns, 2010; and Houston Texans, 2011-present. Led Panthers to two NFC Championship Games and one Super Bowl (lost to New England Patriots).

Jeff Garcia:  attended San Jose State University and began career in Canadian Football League, 1994-1998.  Played in NFL for:  San Francisco 49ers, 1999-2003; Cleveland, 2004; Detroit, 2005; Philadelphia, 2006; Tampa Bay, 2007-2008; Oakland, 2009; Philadelphia again in 2009; and Houston Texans, 2011-present (spent 2010 in the United Football League).

Retirements to Keep on Your Radar:

QBs:  Donovan McNabb, David Garrard

Running Backs:  Cedric Benson, LaDainian Tomlinson, Kevin Faulk

Santana Moss, wide receiver

Antonio Gates, tight end

Matt Birk, center

Joey Porter, linebacker

Defensive Secondary:  Rashean Mathis, Brian Dawkins, Ronde Barber

*A player gets credit for half a sack when he brings down a quarterback with another teammate.

**After winning the overtime coin toss, Hasselbeck leaned toward the referee’s mic and said “We want the ball, and we’re going to score.”  He’s probably still shaking his head over that.

No comments:

Post a Comment

Have a question you want answered, a correction or a comment?