NFL: Former Panther at peace with retirement

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Associated Press
NASHVILLE, Tenn.— Kerry Collins thought about calling it quits at the end of last season only to give himself plenty of time before finally announcing his unexpected retirement earlier this month.
In the end, going out on his own terms mattered most to a 38-year-old quarterback still eager to play on Sunday but not ready for all the other work anymore.
“I didn’t win a Super Bowl, and that is going to be one of the things that bugs me, I know it will,” Collins said Wednesday in his first public comments to four reporters.
“But when I sit here and look back at the age of 38, I played 16 years and I had kind of a rough start but I am proud of the way I came back from that and the things I accomplished over the years. There will be parts of it that I will miss, but I don’t think I’ll ever regret the decision I made.”
He spoke with former Titans punter Craig Hentrich and his agent, David Dunn, for advice before deciding that he would leave the NFL on his own and not when his phone quit ringing.
“Very few guys get to do that. That was the biggest reason why I did it when I did it,” Collins said.
At the end of last season and as recently as late June at a charity softball game, Collins said he felt he had a couple more good years left. He then retired July 7 in a statement released by his agent.
He might have stepped away in March if the NFL lockout hadn’t stopped the Titans from pressing him for his plans. He said he respects new Titans coach Mike Munchak, also from Penn State, and fans have been asking him for months if he was returning to Tennessee.
Now he plans to work more at songwriting with a couple of his songs being cut with a third possibly being recorded. He’s got a new Harley-Davidson motorcycle to ride without violating a contract, and he and his family will spend more time at his North Carolina farm with trips to Penn State this fall for football games.
“I’m at peace now,” Collins said.
The fifth pick overall in 1995 out of Penn State, Collins was the first selection by the then-expansion Carolina Panthers. Released in 1998, he also played for New Orleans, helped the New York Giants to the 2001 Super Bowl, and Oakland before his final five seasons in Tennessee.
He retires with some lofty numbers.
Collins ranks 11th all-time in yards passing with 40,441 yards between Joe Montana (40,551) and Johnny Unitas (40,239). He also ranks ninth all-time in completions with 3,439, ahead of Montana (3,409) and behind Fran Tarkenton (3,686).
His career record of 84-100 as a starter may be due more to starting his career with an expansion franchise and finding himself in Oakland and Tennessee during down times for both those teams.
Collins had one of his best seasons in 2010, throwing for 1,823 yards with 14 touchdowns and eight interceptions with an 82.2 passer rating that was his best since 2002.
He has no problem recalling his best memory or his lowest low during 16 NFL seasons. His high came in January 2001 when he threw for a career-high 381 yards and five touchdowns in helping the Giants beat the Minnesota Vikings in the NFC championship game.
“That was really special,” Collins said of a day where everything went right.
The low is just as easy to find in the day Carolina released him in 1998 after he had started four games for the Panthers. Collins was struggling with alcohol and off-field issues, and he said he is most proud of how he responded to that situation.
The key was deciding he wanted people to think of him not for the drinking and off-field troubles but for being a professional who respected the game.
“Really at the end of the day, that’s what I wanted people to think about. Not only for them and the outside world but myself as well,” Collins said.’
He finished the season in New Orleans before signing with the Giants in 1999 where he spent five seasons. Collins played in Oakland in 2004 and 2005 before being signed by Tennessee in 2006 to mentor Vince Young.
Collins started 177 of the 195 games he played.