ASHBURN, Va. — Ryan Kerrigan prided himself on taking a consistent approach that yielded equally consistent results. But when his left knee prevented him from doing so, he decided the best result was retirement.
Kerrigan announced his retirement 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 should have retired last year because of a bad left knee.
“I wasn’t emotionally ready to not play football anymore,” Kerrigan said. “I had a good playoff game and that made me think I could still do this. As I got into training again in late June, the knee really bothered me again.”
That made it easier for a player who said football factored into every decision he made – down to what he ate for breakfast in the offseason – to stop playing. Kerrigan, the 16th overall pick in 2011, retires as Washington’s all-time sack leader with 95.5 while also making four Pro Bowls. He did not record a sack in the regular season with the Eagles, but had 1.5 in a playoff loss to Tampa Bay.
Kerrigan exits as one of the last stalwarts with ties to the organization’s former name. Only 11 players remain who were Kerrigan’s teammates under the previous name.
“Us honoring him as the Commanders continues on the legacy of that name and our team as a whole,” said center Chase Roullier, one of those 11. “It shows we are the same group of guys whether that name has changed or not. There’s a lot of cultural changes, 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 Saturday, where he was accompanied by his wife and his three daughters – all under 3 years old. “I know this team means a lot to a lot of people. It’s one of the oldest franchises in the league and had a lot of great players come through, so for people to think of me that way is pretty cool.”
Kerrigan was consistent throughout his career, both in approach and production. He was fastidious with his diet, starting each day with two chicken breasts and drinking 300 ounces of water daily during the season.
It helped him avoid injuries as Kerrigan started the first 139 games of his career, not sitting out a game until his final season in Washington because of 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 allows you to succeed in the NFL, when you have an approach and stick to it even when it’s not convenient.
“…It meant a lot to me being out there for 139 straight games and being ready to play was a testament to how I felt about the game and how I felt about my approach to it.”
When Kerrigan walked into Washington’s practice facility Friday afternoon, he was greeted by players and coaches, who gave him an ovation.
“The biggest thing is what he meant to the franchise, the fans and the community,” Washington coach Ron Rivera said, “and also in talking to him how important it was to do this. We felt obligated because it was the right thing to do…. He was a guy you could always count on and help set the example. You only get so many of those guys so when you get them, they most certainly should be celebrated.”
Roullier called Kerrigan the ‘epitome’ of an NFL player. Kerrigan said it was as simple as devoting himself to a game he loved – and would like to continue in as a coach.
“I gave them everything I had,” Kerrigan said. “Emotionally, physically they got all of me. Football was my life. I didn’t have a lot of hobbies… It was all about football: How was this daily decision going to help me with football? OK, I’m waking up in the morning, I’m eating breakfast how is this breakfast going to help me with football? That’s how I approached every day.”