Seattle Seahawks offensive lineman Chris Gray grudgingly retired Monday because of a lower back and spinal injury that could threaten his ability to walk.
Gray, 38, was told last Saturday by a trio of team physicians that he risked paralysis if he kept playing.
"There was not much of a choice," Gray said. "Once they told me the seriousness, I could not risk being confined to a wheelchair just to play a 16th year.
"I have two young kids and a wife who has supported me the whole time. It would be fun to spend time with them."
Gray suffered the injury during a routine drill at training camp, feeling a pop when he hit a blocking sled.
"The last two days, every time I started talking to someone, I started crying," he said. "All of a sudden — whoosh — it just cut off.
"It is kind of a shock. But it has been a fun ride."
Gray was drafted out of Auburn in the fifth round (132nd overall) by the Miami Dolphins in 1993.
The Auburn product spent his first four pro seasons in Miami, then one season as a free agent for the Chicago Bears (1997) and the past 10 with the Seahawks.
"I'm not the biggest, fastest or strongest guy," Gray said. "But I knew what to do and how to prepare.
"Ninety-five per cent of the time, I got the job done. And that was enough to be in the Super Bowl."
Gray was re-signed April 16 to a two-year, $2.1-million US deal by the Seahawks, with whom he set a franchise record of 121 consecutive starts before sitting out with a bruised right quadriceps last Dec. 31.
"I'm talking to the team about a marketing deal, kind of like the Brett Favre thing, you know?" he joked. "Not for $20 million.
"But a couple of hundred Gs? It would work."