“Although I know it’s the right decision, it’s not easy in the end knowing that I won’t play football anymore,” he said. “I kind of had this realization last night. … I’m not going to play football anymore. That’s kind of crazy. Been doing this for so long. But I just know where I am, healthy and otherwise, that it’s the best thing for me.” to move forward.”
Ryan Kerrigan signs a one-day retirement contract with Washington
The former defensive end and all-time franchise leader decided in June and announced Friday that he was retiring, capping an 11-season tour in the NFL, including 10 with the leaders. This has been his plan for more than a year, although the Indiana native has at times wondered if he can continue.
After losing the leaders in a playoff to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in early 2021, Kerrigan returned to an empty FedEx Arena, sat on the bench and took one last look at the stadium he called “home.” When he returned to FedEx a year later as the Philadelphia Eagle, he enjoyed playing in front of the Washington fans. And when he felt his body “nice” after two months of quitting training, his mind couldn’t help but wonder about playing more.
“[I] He was like: ‘Oh, my body feels so good! I can do it again. “It’s like, OK, your body is feeling good because you haven’t been training for football in two months, so you have to kind of admit the fact there.”
In fact, his knee was hit by a bullet.
Doctors gave him poor reports about his knee in May 2021, and he was encouraged to call it a career. But while his knee needed him to retire, his mind was nowhere near ready.
Over the past two years, and especially in recent days, he has had to reflect on his years in Washington. He’s back in 2012, when Washington defeated Dallas in Week 17 to win the score at home. He considered a 2018 game with the Cowboys at FedEx Field, where he was forced into a stumble and defensive end that Preston Smith reclaimed for the touchdown. Kerrigan thought again about picking his six in his first game and the many locker room interactions of the past decade.
“But when I come back here [the] Park who I really like, “That’s why I like this place,” he said. “Because all the relationships you’ve built over the years with your teammates, coaches, people in the kitchen, and powerful employees, [media]. … It’s hard to walk away, though I know it’s the right thing.”
Kerrigan’s retirement closes a chapter, as he is one of the last players to star in the franchise under his previous name. His final season in Washington was the franchise’s first year with the Washington football team, and it was his last day as captain.
On Friday, he returned to Ashburn, where his former teammates and coaches greeted him with applause in the facility’s lobby. He got a hug from the defensive end of Year Three Chase Young and later signed his one-day contract to end his career with Washington.
“He’s a guy you can always count on,” said coach Ron Rivera. “He’s a guy who can always set an example. I mean, you only get a lot of these guys, and when you get them, they definitely need to celebrate.”
Kerrigan, an exemplary and key player in the Washington franchise, attended training camp Saturday with an uncompromising smile and peace with his decision. But he admitted he’d still play if those medical reports were cleaner, if his knee could take longer, if his body could still move with the same intensity as his mind.
“That’s kind of what makes it difficult,” he said. “It’s complicated because I still feel like I can, but knowing that it’s not a guarantee that I’ll get a place on the roster at the end of camp. Because that was kind of my plan in this off season, it was kind of a wait all through boot camp, and once the rosters started, Fade away, hopefully I can find a good posture. But without that guarantee, to keep putting pressure on my knees and so on, it just wasn’t worth it.”
Players in Washington still revere Kerrigan as the seasoned veteran he has shown this is o . technique this is move in the field or this is Recovery method after games. His work ethic, bordering on insanity, is cited by players as almost legendary. Wide receiver Terry McLaurin remembers the tips Kerrigan gave him to stay healthy and ready for his game days. Young remembers practices with Kerrigan and how the vet took him under his wing, even when Young took his place as a start.
He’s a guy I’ve been looking forward to since middle school,” said Young, who was recovering from a knee injury himself. “So it was definitely an honor to play with him. Nice to see him. Nice to see all the little RKs with him. … RK didn’t really talk much, but every time he joked, it was funny. I wanted him to talk more. Just how we used to.” To laugh in practice, and he would give me certain things, and certain advice in the field.”
Kerrigan played 172 regular season games—including 139 consecutive games to start his career—147 quarterbacks, 95.5 sacks, 26 forced fumbles and three interceptions that came back for touchdowns, placing him among the game’s best players and among Washington’s top players.
His stamina and strict work ethic were part of an all-consuming football lifestyle. He stressed when he couldn’t get a chicken-and-rice dinner on the road, and he treated breakfast like another chore. Every meal and every decision was game-oriented: How will you help him to be better in football?
He said de-blocking his diet and lifestyle was “liberating” — “If I wanted a beer, I’d have a beer” – but his approach to the game is one he hopes fans will remember when they think of a performance.
Ryan Kerrigan’s final year in Washington and why he chose the Eagles
“I just want [fans] To know I gave them everything I had, like, literally everything I had,” Kerrigan said. “Emotionally and physically, they all took possession of me. Football was my life. … I just want the fans to know that it means a lot to me, that my performance and what I was showing on Sunday was very important to me, and that it was my driving force in life.”
Although Kerrigan appears resigned to his decision to retire, he is barely done with the game. He hopes to turn his career into one as a coach, where he can continue to be a mentor.
Perhaps his next career also begins in Washington, perhaps as a consultant or assistant, where he feels at home in foreign lands, on the sidelines.
“I love football a lot,” he said. “I just love football so much that I don’t participate in it in any capacity.”