Dallas Cowboys defensive tackle Josh Brent retired from football at the age of 25 on Thursday, saying "doing the right things in life" is more important as he prepares to defend himself against a manslaughter charge in the drunken-driving crash that killed a teammate.
Brent said he had "given a lot of thought" to his decision. His football career has been on hold since the Dec. 8 crash that killed Jerry Brown, a practice squad player, college teammate and close friend.
"I am at a point where my main focus is all about getting the priorities in my life in order," Brent said in a statement provided by the team. "Those priorities are more important than football. Doing the right things in life are more important than football. I love the game very much. I love my teammates, but this is the right thing for me to do."
Brent is charged with intoxication manslaughter and faces up to 20 years in prison if convicted, though he could also get probation. Suburban Dallas police accused Brent of driving with a blood-alcohol content more than twice the legal limit the night of the crash.
He has also tested positive twice for marijuana while out on bond, and was briefly jailed after the second test. He is again out on bond, but under stricter conditions that include monitoring for drugs and alcohol, and is banned from driving.
Owner Jerry Jones and coach Jason Garrett both said they supported Brent's decision to focus on life outside of football instead of the game. Jones told reporters that Brent's recent failed drug tests didn't affect his support of the player.
"I promised Jerry's mother that we would support Josh in every way we could," Jones said. "That's been our only thought since the accident is to support him and support our team in their support of him."
The Cowboys at the end of last season put Brent on the reserve non-football injury list. NFL spokesman Greg Aiello indicated the league would not punish Brent now that he was stepping away from football.
"With his retirement, there is no action for us to take at this point," Aiello said.
One of Brent's attorneys, George Milner, said the retirement has no effect on the criminal case. Prosecutors declined to comment.