Two years ago, the Ravens traded for quarterback Steve McNair, hoping the former NFL co-most valuable player could resurrect a young and proud franchise.
That worked for a year, when McNair led the Ravens to a 13-3 record and the team's first playoff appearance in three seasons. But months after an injury-plagued 2007 season, the four-time Pro Bowl quarterback walked into a meeting with teammates yesterday and shocked them by announcing his retirement.McNair, 35, who was considered "a warrior" by teammates for his ability to battle through pain and injuries, said at a hastily arranged news conference that his banged-up body wouldn't allow him to continue playing.
Teammates gave McNair a standing ovation during the emotional morning meeting. And then they took the field for their first practice under new coach John Harbaugh.
Hours later, players still couldn't believe the news.
"It's shocking," said receiver Derrick Mason, who was McNair's teammate for 10 years. "I thought I was going to get at least one more year" with him.
McNair's unexpected announcement leaves a major void. The only two quarterbacks on the Ravens' roster are Kyle Boller and Troy Smith, two unproven quarterbacks.
Asked who is his starting quarterback, Harbaugh said: "We lost our incumbent, and now it's wide open."
The Ravens were expected to take a quarterback in the draft April 26, but now there seems to be more urgency to do so.
Boller will be a free agent at the end of the season, and Smith is entering his second season in the NFL.
The Ravens might have to consider trading up from the eighth overall pick in order to take Boston College's Matt Ryan, the consensus top quarterback in the draft, or they could choose to sign a free agent.
"This has no impact on our plans," Ravens general manager Ozzie Newsome said of McNair's retirement. "This will not impact our decision in the draft - not one iota. I had the opportunity to speak to my staff. ... They felt the same way."
During his 13-year career, McNair led the Tennessee Titans to the Super Bowl in 1999 and was named the NFL's co-MVP in 2003. He is one of three quarterbacks in NFL history to throw for 30,000 yards and rush for 3,500 yards.
Drafted in the first round in 1995, McNair redefined the quarterback position with his ability to shrug off pass rushers with his strength and sprint for a first down or throw deep downfield. Nicknamed "Air McNair," he won 91 games and threw for 174 touchdowns and 119 interceptions.
"He's the best player I've ever played with," said Ravens cornerback Samari Rolle, who played with McNair for the Titans. "He's a sure-fire Hall of Famer. It hurts because Steve was like a mentor to me."
Said linebacker Ray Lewis: "There is no greater warrior or player with a bigger heart than Steve McNair."
The Ravens acquired McNair in June 2006 by trading a fourth-round pick to the Titans. It involved a 38-day stalemate in talks that included McNair being locked out by the Titans, a team he quarterbacked for 10 years.
McNair, who was the most decorated quarterback to ever play for the Ravens, signed a five-year contract, which included an $11 million signing bonus.
In 2006, McNair guided the Ravens to a 13-3 record, the most wins in franchise history, with an unflappable demeanor and clutch play. But his season soured in a playoff loss to the Indianapolis Colts, when he was intercepted near the goal line.
Sun archives: McNair retires from Ravens
'Warrior' quarterback and co-MVP shocks teammates, blames injuries
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