This week, retired defensive lineman Trevor Pryce penned a column for the New York Times, talking about his retirement from the NFL, and how after one season on the outside looking in, he’s already tired of being retired.
The entire column is a terrific read, and I highly recommend you click through and read Pryce’s thoughts in his own words, as he describes the adjustment to retirement at age 36, going on 37.
Welcome to the life of the secure and utterly bored former professional athlete.
The last thing I need is anybody feeling sorry for me. I’m retired at 36. I’m still in shape, I still run fast and I’m injury free.
So how did I arrive at this place, where the days run together, where sleep is so abundant that I can’t remember the last time I felt tired?
The Steelers. That’s how.
A few hours after the heartbreaking loss to Pittsburgh in the A.F.C. championship game that I played with the Jets in January 2011, I was standing by the bus and saying to myself: “This is it. I’m done!”
Then Coach Rex Ryan walked up to me and asked what I was thinking about the next season. I told him that I was emotionally and physically spent and that the last thing I wanted to do was deal with football again.
I’m a man of my word. Fourteen years on the defensive line was long enough. I lasted about 13 more than I thought I would, so I was content. Was I sad? A little. Was I elated and relieved? A lot.
But now I have a question: Rex, do you need a pass rusher next season?
The 6’5, 290 lb Brooklyn-born Pryce was a 1st-round pick in 1997 and played his first nine NFL seasons with the Denver Broncos, winning two Super Bowls and making four Pro Bowls along the way.
He signed with the Baltimore Ravens as a free agent in 2006, where he first teamed up with then-Ravens defensive coordinator Rex Ryan.
Ryan was Pryce’s defensive coordinator in Baltimore for three seasons from 2006-2008, before he left to take the Jets head coaching job in 2009.
On a Wednesday in September of 2010, the Ravens tried to free up a roster spot by releasing Pryce, with the intention of re-signing him the following Monday, after their Week 4 game against the Pittsburgh Steelers.
However, Pryce did not last on the free agent market until Monday. On Thursday, September 30, one day after his release, Pryce signed with the Jets, reuniting with Ryan, spending his final season in the Green and White.
Despite his age, the veteran defensive lineman had a terrific stint in New York, and arguably was one of the best players on the field in the Jets’ AFC Championship Game lost to the Steelers in January 2011.
I have no doubt in my mind that if he wanted to, Pryce could still be productive in this league, even as he turns 37 a month before the start of the 2012 regular season.
One thing’s for certain, no matter how serious Pryce is about flirting with an NFL return, his love for Rex Ryan is real.
Like Bart Scott, Jim Leonhard, and other teammates from the Ravens and Jets, Trevor Pryce is a Rex Ryan guy for life. That really speaks to the connection Ryan has with his players. It’s as strong a bond as there is in football.
Nothing truly prepared me for retirement. It hit me across the face like a Deacon Jones head slap. Suddenly, I’m sitting around at 10:30 a.m. looking for something good on television — which is impossible.
Don’t cry for me, though. I’m getting used to it slowly and will be content with my new life. That is, until Rex calls.
Pryce will likely have to be content with retirement for the time being. Ryan and the Jets have good depth and youth on their defensive line, which is probably the only reason Pryce isn’t suiting up right now.
He had a stellar 14-year NFL career, and for a guy like him who was so productive on a consistent basis for all those years, there’s no surprise he’s still got that itch. Wouldn’t you?