Nine-time Pro Bowl safety John Lynch has left the Denver Broncos.
Head coach Mike Shanahan told the 16-year veteran that he could not guarantee him a permanent starting role.
"He wants to play every down," Shanahan said Thursday. "Heck, I can't blame him. I'm not going to say that he can't."
It's just not going to be with Denver, where's he's spent the last four seasons.
Lynch was promised nothing more than an opportunity to compete for a starting safety job when he took a pay cut in the offseason.
But with the emergence of Marlon McCree, Lynch didn't see much time in the nickel or dime packages during the first week of training camp.
He tried to live with it—to accept his reduced role—and soon realized he couldn't.
"I've always been one to follow my gut and follow my heart with decisions, and when I've done that things have worked out pretty darn good for me," Lynch said. "My gut was telling me that this wasn't the right situation."
Lynch, who's entering his 16th season, is going to explore his options, possibly signing with another team if he deems it a good situation.
"I still have a great passion for the game of football," Lynch said. "I still very much love it in my heart. I still feel like I can compete at a Pro Bowl level, but the situation is going to have to be right. I'm not going to just play for any team or any situation."
Shanahan is supportive of Lynch and won't stand in the way.
"I'll be rooting for John as long as he's not in the AFC West," Shanahan said with a grin. "If [he] is, I'll be rooting for him as a person, just not in the games we play."
The Lynch saga has been a surprise for the Broncos.
Champ Bailey knew the nine-time Pro Bowler was discontent with his playing time, but not to this degree.
"I didn't see that coming," Bailey said. "But I understand how competitive he is and how much pride he has about what he does on the field."
McCree understood Lynch's reasons for wanting to leave as well.
"It's how life is in the NFL," said McCree, who started all 16 games with San Diego last season. "John will go on and continue to have much success. I'm sure if he wants to play, he can still play at a high level."
Lynch's decline in playing time began last season as he started to come off the field on passing downs.
He came into camp knowing that there were no guarantees, after Shanahan leveled with him during organized team activities in June.
"John came up to me and said, 'Mike, if the season started today, where do you see me?'" Shanahan said.
So, Shanahan consulted with his coaches and told Lynch he'd be a part of the base defense, but wouldn't be in the nickel package, resulting in a dip in playing time.
Lynch reported to training camp, but as the practices wore on, he wasn't pleased with the amount of time he was receiving. He told Shanahan on Tuesday that he needed time to think about his future.
"He came back to me and said, 'I'm a guy that's really got to be involved...I just don't like the role I'm in right now,'" Shanahan said.
Shanahan didn't try to talk him out of the decision.
"I don't think I've ever been with more of a pro than a guy like John Lynch," Shanahan said. "He's the type of guy that you look at in the future and say, 'Could this guy be the president of the United States?' He's that type of guy. I felt like I owed it to him, to look at his options, football, retirement, whatever he wants to do."
Lynch wished his team well on his way out.
"I really like the feel about this team, and that's what made this an extra-hard decision," Lynch said. "This team has a great chemistry to it. I think they're going to do very well."
Alby Jnr for nfluk.com