NEW YORK (AP) — Kris Jenkins was prepared to attempt yet another comeback. And, he dared anyone to doubt that he’d be able to pull it off.
But after a career filled with dominant moments and frustrating injuries, the big and charismatic defensive tackle decided his body had been through enough.
Jenkins announced his retirement on his Facebook page Wednesday after his last two seasons with the New York Jets were cut short by serious knee injuries.
“Wanted to let you all know that I have loved the support and respect that you all have given me throughout my career,” Jenkins wrote. “But it is time for the torch to be passed to the younger players. I am going to hang up the cleats!”
Jenkins, who’ll be 32 on Aug. 3, was released by the Jets in a cost-cutting move in February, but said at the time he still wanted to play. He continued his rehabilitation from his latest knee injury throughout the NFL lockout, and said he would be interested in playing for a team that played its home games on natural grass to help protect his knees. In the end, the four-time Pro Bowl selection chose to focus on life after football.
“The mind is always willing to play, but my body deserves the rest,” Jenkins wrote. “Thank you for the opportunities to play, Carolina and New York.”
The 6-foot-5, 360-pound Jenkins tore the anterior cruciate ligament in his surgically repaired left knee in the team’s opener against Baltimore. A few weeks later, Jenkins — an entertaining presence in the Jets’ locker room — announced he was going to try to come back again: “One, Yes I will wear knee braces,” he wrote, “2, I don’t care who disagrees; 3, I am crazy enough to pull it off!!!!!”
The 10-year veteran tore the same ACL midway through the 2009 season, and missed 25 regular-season games the last two years. He also tore the ACL in his right knee in 2005 while with Carolina.
Sione Pouha played well in Jenkins’ place the last two seasons, and it appeared the Jets were moving on without their big run-stuffing presence when they drafted nose tackle Kenrick Ellis in the third round in April. Ellis is expected to back up Pouha this season.
Jenkins began his career with the Panthers in 2001 after they drafted him in the second round out of Maryland. He quickly became a dominant interior defensive lineman, and helped Carolina to the Super Bowl against New England in 2004. Jenkins missed most of the next season with a shoulder injury, but came back from that only to injure his right knee in the season opener.
He rebounded from two lost seasons to become a Pro Bowl selection in 2006, but was traded to the Jets before the 2008 season after developing a reputation for being disgruntled in Carolina.
Happy and re-energized in New York, Jenkins had a terrific first season with the Jets under Eric Mangini in 2008 and was again selected for the Pro Bowl. Rex Ryan, hired as coach the following offseason after Mangini was fired, said he was excited to have a player of Jenkins’ size and ability anchoring his defensive line.
But, Ryan never got to experience what Jenkins could do for his defense for a full season because of the knee injuries.
Jenkins said last summer he had considered retiring in 2009 after tearing the ACL in his left knee, knowing how intense the rehab would be. He instead came back in tremendous shape for training camp, even winning a weight-loss challenge between him, Ryan and offensive tackle Damien Woody by dropping 34 pounds with the help of a well-known cookie diet.
Jenkins’ comeback lasted less than one quarter, though. He was hurt on the Ravens’ sixth offensive play of the Jets’ 10-9 loss when he was caught in a pileup on a tackle of fullback Le’Ron McClain and immediately clutched his left knee. He remained on the turf for a few minutes, then got up and limped to the sideline.
It was to be the last play of his NFL career, despite having a few teams interested in having him play this season.
Copyright 2011 The Associated Press.
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