Updates from Wednesday, Feb. 26
Jordan Gross spoke about his decision to retire at a press conference on Wednesday (via David Newton of ESPN and the Panthers):
Jordan Gross has long been one of the NFL's best left tackles, but after 11 stellar seasons with the Carolina Panthers, the three-time Pro Bowler is set to retire, according to Joe Person of The Charlotte Observer:
The 33-year-old Gross is coming off one of his best seasons, as he helped the Panthers reach the playoffs and nab a first-round bye in the NFC.
Gross paved the way for running back DeAngelo Williams and protected quarterback Cam Newton's blind side en route to his third Pro Bowl appearance. While it wasn't widely known at that time, the 2014 Pro Bowl would prove to be Gross' final NFL game.
His retirement comes at a somewhat surprising juncture because the Panthers appear to be on the rise. From Gross' perspective, however, that made it the perfect time to call it a career, per Bryan Strickland of Panthers.com:
I didn't want to leave until I felt the team was back in a good position for sustained success. The team is there now. There is good, young leadership, there are talented players and there are guys that really want to work hard and want to win.
Gross added that he leaves the organization with nothing but positive thoughts:
I've played a lot of football here, and I've seen a lot of guys come and a lot of guys go. Sometimes it ends well for guys, and sometimes it is not the ending they were looking for. I knew that this was the time for me to step away—happy, healthy and thinking fondly about my experience.
In fact, Gross enjoyed his time with the Panthers so much that he intends to remain part of the organization in some way moving forward, according to Person:
Walking away after 11 years wasn't an easy decision by any means, and it is one Gross thought long and hard about, according to NFL.com's Ian Rapoport:
Because the effects of concussions and other injuries are understood now more than ever, early retirement could be a new NFL trend. While 33 isn't necessarily young by NFL standards, Gross' level of play suggests that he could have competed at a high level for at least a few more years.
At the same time, it's tough to blame Gross for reaching this conclusion, especially since he has already made plenty of money during his career.
There is no question that Gross would have loved to win a Super Bowl and rack up more accolades, but his desire for self-preservation should be respected and applauded.
The Panthers now have a huge hole on the left side of their offensive line, but Gross has given them ample time to find a replacement via free agency or the draft.
Fortunately for Carolina, this year's draft is stacked with talent at offensive tackle, so going in that direction is a definite possibility, although the odds of finding a player of Gross' caliber obviously aren't good.
Because of that, Gross will always be remembered as one of the Panthers' all-time greats.
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