McNair: 'Physically, I couldn't do it anymore' Print
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Friday, 18 April 2008 01:06
NFL Headline News

 OWINGS MILLS, Md. (AP) -The litany of injuries that defined Steve McNair's heroic career finally caught up to the gritty quarterback, whose ailing body simply would not allow him to return for a 14th NFL season.
McNair announced his retirement Thursday, ending a 13-year run in which he was selected co-MVP, led the Tennessee Titans to the Super Bowl and orchestrated the most successful regular season in the history of the Baltimore Ravens.
The 35-year-old McNair did not force back tears, nor did he express any measure of doubt during a news conference at the Ravens training complex. McNair seemed content with a decision that first took root months ago, not long after he had surgery on his non-throwing shoulder.
He tried to come back, but decided during minicamp this week that he was physically unable to make that kind of commitment for another year - especially after a horrid 2007 season in which he battled groin, back and shoulder injuries.
``I'm not going to put my team in harm's way, nor myself, because I don't have the physical tools anymore to play this game at a high level,'' he said. ``... My mind was there. Mentally, I could go out and play. But physically, I couldn't do it anymore. Not to the capacity that I need to help my teammates win a football game.''
For years, McNair played in pain and never complained. His teammates marveled at how he could play 60 grueling minutes on Sunday after spending most of the week in the training room. Sometimes, he was too hurt to even practice.
The highlight of McNair's career might be a five-game stretch at the end of the 2002 season in which he was banged up so much he could not practice. McNair started all five games and won them all, leading the Titans to an 11-5 finish and a berth in the AFC championship game for the second time in four seasons.
``You name the injury and Steve had it and he still showed up. Not only did he show up, but he showed up and played extremely well,'' said Eddie George, who played running back behind George in Houston and Tennessee. ``For most of his days in Tennessee he played like that. In his MVP year (in 2003) he played most of the year hurt. It is a testament to his willingness to win and how he sacrificed his body for the team.''
McNair played all 16 games in 2006, his first season in Baltimore, and guided the Ravens to a franchise-best 13-3 record. But he injured his groin during the season opener last season and never regained the form that enabled him to earn a berth in four Pro Bowls.
McNair played in only six games. He threw two touchdown passes, was intercepted four times and lost seven fumbles before being placed on injured reserve in December, ending his most frustrating season in the NFL.
He spent much of the past three months getting ready for his 14th NFL season, but through it all, McNair had an inkling that all the running and weightlifting might be for naught.
``My mind was telling me, 'Yes,' and my body was like, 'No, what are you doing?' I came up with (the idea of retiring) two or three days ago, but it's been lingering ever since December.''
The news stunned his teammates, who expected McNair to return - if only to prove last season was fluke.
``I thought I was going to get at least one more year, because I know Steve has a big chip on his shoulder,'' said receiver Derrick Mason, who also played with McNair on the Titans.
The Ravens now have two quarterbacks: Kyle Boller and Troy Smith. First-year coach John Harbaugh said the competition for the starting job would be ``wide open,'' and general manager Ozzie Newsome insisted the loss of McNair would have ``no impact'' on the team's direction in the NFL draft later this month.
``It hasn't changed not one thought in my mind as to how we're going to prepare,'' Newsome said. ``I had the opportunity to speak to my staff and echoed that to them and they felt the same way.''
McNair began his career in 1995 with the Houston Oilers, who eventually became the Tennessee Titans. He led the team to four playoff appearances, including the Super Bowl after the 1999 season. He was chosen co-MVP of the league in 2003, sharing the award with Peyton Manning, after throwing for 3,215 yards and 24 touchdowns with only seven interceptions.
McNair fought injuries during the latter part of his career with Tennessee and was dealt to the Ravens in June 2006 for a fourth-round draft pick. He had every intention of completing the five-year contract he signed with Baltimore, but those old wounds finally caught up to him.
``I have to say, honestly, that I'm disappointed,'' Harbaugh said. ``It was going to be an opportunity to be involved with one of the greatest warriors in the history of the game.''
Tennessee's Jeff Fisher, his coach for most of his career, said, ``Steve was the face of this franchise when we arrived here. And I think in a lot of ways will always be one of the faces of this franchise.''
McNair will trade the label ``NFL quarterback'' for the tag ``family man.''
``It's been a great ride,'' he said. ``It's a sad, emotional day for me. I'm trying to do the best I can to hold it in. But at the same time, I'm opening up a lot more doors for the future. I can become now the father I need to be to my kids.''
 

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