Retirement of franchise leader Ryan Kerrigan caps an era for Washington football

ASHBURN, Va. — Ryan Kerrigan was proud to have taken a consistent approach that yielded equally consistent results. But when his left knee got in the way, he decided the best outcome was retirement.

Kerrigan announced his retirement on Friday, ending his 11-year career by signing a one-day contract with the Washington Commanders. He played 10 seasons for Washington before signing with the Philadelphia Eagles last offseason.

He said some doctors told him he should have retired last year due to a bad left knee.

“I wasn’t emotionally ready to stop playing football,” Kerrigan said. “I had a good playoff game and it made me think I could still do it. When I started training again at the end of June, the knee really bothered me again.”

It allowed a player who said football was factored into every decision he made – right down to what he ate for breakfast in the offseason – to stop playing. Kerrigan, the 16th overall pick in 2011, is retiring as Washington’s all-time sack leader with 95.5 while winning four Pro Bowls. He didn’t record a sack in the regular season with the Eagles, but had 1.5 in a playoff loss to Tampa Bay.

Kerrigan is one of the last stalwarts tied to the organization’s old name. Only 11 players remain who were Kerrigan’s teammates under the old name.

“We honor him as commanders carrying on the legacy of this name and our team as a whole,” said center Chase Roullier, one of those 11. “It shows we’re the same group of guys , whether that name has changed or not. There’s a lot of cultural shifts, a lot of things that have changed, but we’re still able to honor Ryan.”

“It’s really cool,” Kerrigan said at a press conference on Saturday, where he was accompanied by his wife and three daughters – all under the age of 3. “I know this team means a lot to a lot of people. It’s one of the oldest franchises in the league and a lot of great players have come through, so for people to think of me that way is kind of cool.”

Kerrigan has been consistent throughout his career, both in approach and production. He was meticulous with his diet, starting each day with two chicken breasts and drinking 300 ounces of water a day during the season.

It helped him stave off injuries as Kerrigan started the first 139 games of his career, missing a game until his final season in Washington due to a concussion.

“I tried to take a consistent approach every day, whether it was Week 1 or Week 17, whether we were 3-0 or 0-3,” he said. “That’s what makes you successful in the NFL, when you have an approach and you stick with it even when it’s not practical.

“…It meant a lot to me to be out there for 139 games in a row and to be ready to play was a testament to how I felt about the game and my approach to it.”

When Kerrigan walked into the Washington training facility on Friday afternoon, he was greeted by players and coaches, who gave him a standing ovation.

“The biggest thing is what he meant to the franchise, the fans and the community,” Washington coach Ron Rivera said, “and also talking to him about the importance of doing this. We felt compelled because it was the right thing to do… He was a guy that you could always count on and help lead by example. You only get a limited number of these guys, so when you get them, they should definitely be celebrated.

Roullier called Kerrigan the “quintessential” NFL player. Kerrigan said it was as simple as dedicating himself to a game he loved and would like to continue as a coach.

“I gave them everything I had,” Kerrigan said. “Emotionally, physically, they understood me. Football was my life. I didn’t have many hobbies… It was all about football: how was this daily decision going to help me with the football? OK, I’m waking up in the morning, I’m having my breakfast, how is this breakfast going to help me with football? That’s how I approached each day.”

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