Trading Jurrell Casey to the Denver Broncos before the 2020 season was presumably one of the more difficult decisions Jon Robinson has made as Tennessee Titans General Manager.
Casey, one of the more popular Titans players, had one of the more fulfilling careers in franchise history, highlighted by his five Pro Bowl selections, six defensive captain honors, and two Walter Payton NFL Man of the Year nominations.
But after he suffered a season-ending injury just three games into last season, Casey leaned to start listening to his body. Sometimes seemingly forcing himself through offseason workouts, Casey’s body didn’t seem as willing to push through like it had in year’s past.
That’s when he knew it was time.
Casey announced his retirement on Thursday at Nissan Stadium in the very place that made him one of the more feared defensive players in the NFL.
"I am proud; I am nowhere near sad," Casey said. "There is not one bit of sadness in me at all. I made the decision on my own, that is the blessing of it all. It is a feeling I always wanted to have, to be able to walk away from this game on my own accord.
“...The body itself told me what it’s going to be. I couldn’t keep going out there and damaging myself and not be there for my family for the long haul. So, I made the decision to go ahead and call it quits.”
Casey noted the importance of coming to his decision on his own.
After the Broncos released the 31-year-old in February, he still had some potential suitors during the offseason, including the Green Bay Packers and Arizona Cardinals. Casey could have easily signed a low-risk free agent contract for 2021 just to have a paycheck and thought nothing of it.
However, that’s not exactly his style.
“The body’s just not driving the same,” Casey acknowledged. “I’d go out there, try to do certain things, try to move around, try to run, try to go and just have free time. The body’s not moving the same and clicking the same way, and there was no way I was going to go put bad film on tape just to collect a couple dollars.”
There’s no question Casey one day belongs in the Tennessee Titans Ring of Honor. Former linebacker Keith Bullock said as much on Thursday. Bullock himself is likely one of the next candidates to be given that honor, with Jevon Kearse and Casey not far behind.
During his nine seasons in Tennessee, Casey was as dominant as any defensive tackle in the NFL. He had 51 sacks -- just one behind Jevon Kearse for the most in Titans’ history and seventh in franchise history -- and he had five or more sacks in seven of his nine years.
Casey made a living by forcing his way into opposing backfields, as is evidenced by his 115 QB hits and 85 tackles for loss. He was one of just five players with at least five sacks and 40 tackles every year from 2013-2019, and he was one of only four defensive tackles with five consecutive Pro Bowl nods from 2015-2019.
“There is no greater model for what a player can achieve both on the field and in the community than Jurrell,” Titans controlling owner Amy Adams Strunk said in a statement. “His five Pro Bowls and two Community Man of the Year awards are part of a tremendous legacy for others to follow.
"On the field, he was a force and helped establish a standard as we rebuilt a culture of success during his tenure, ultimately serving as a captain on the 2019 team that advanced to the AFC Championship Game. On behalf of our entire organization, I congratulate him on a fantastic career, and we will always consider him part of the Titans family.”
Follow Michael Gallagher on Twitter @MGsports_