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Retiring Ravens receiver Brandon Stokley says 'it was a great ride'

FootballPro FootballBrandon StokleyBaltimore RavensNFLIndianapolis Colts

Ravens veteran wide receiver Brandon Stokley lived on the edge for 15 NFL seasons, sacrificing his body by unflinchingly going across the middle and taking the hits.

Now, Stokley is calling it a career after 397 catches for 5,339 yards, 39 touchdowns and multiple concussions.

"I guess I found a way to survive somehow, someway," Stokley said in a telephone interview from his Colorado home on Friday morning. "I was fortunate enough to play for a lot of good people and a lot of great organizations. It was a great ride. Now, it's time to turn the page and move on to the next journey in my life."

Stokley, 37, was placed on injured reserve Dec. 10 after suffering a concussion against the Minnesota Vikings.

Stokley is still feeling the effects from being tackled by Vikings linebacker Chad Greenway, which reinforced that he's making a sound decision.

"It was one of those things where it was going to be hard to come back from the injuries I've had this year and the concussion I have," he said. "I just decided that after this year this was going to be my final year. You just get to the point where enough is enough and you can only push your body so far. This year was a tough year injury-wise for me and it was probably time for me to call it the end.

"I am feeling better. It's still not 100 percent. It lets you know the right decision was made to shut me down for the season. It's one of those things like any other injury you have to rest and not do too much and let it heal up. Hopefully, everything will be fine in the next few weeks."

Stokley also missed several games with a groin injury earlier this season.

Stokley caught 13 passes for 115 yards and no touchdowns in six games this season after signing a one-year, $1.005 million contract in August.

"It was a pleasure being around Brandon this year, getting to know him and the kind of professional he is," Ravens coach John Harbaugh said later Friday. "We had a little bit in common with both of our dads are coaches. They actually coached against one another. Brandon was down there as a [Louisiana-Lafayette] Ragin' Cajun and they played my dad's team [Western Michigan]. He caught like 25 balls.

"He's gone on to have a great career. He was really awesome to be around. Hard worker, great guy, very smart football guy, would make a heck of a coach some day if he chose to."

Drafted in the fourth round by the Ravens in 1999, Stokley caught a touchdown during the first quarter of the Super Bowl XXXV victory over the New York Giants on a play where he beat cornerback Jason Sehorn.

Despite the injuries, Stokley said he counts this year as a positive experience. That included mentoring younger receivers like Torrey Smith, Jacoby Jones and Marlon Brown.

"It was awesome. I had so much fun this year being able to go back to Baltimore and finish it up there," Stokley said. "First-class organization from the top with Mr. [Steve] Bisciotti to Ozzie Newsome, Dick Cass and John Harbaugh, you can't say enough about those guys and the fans. They're unbelievable, love them to death.

"To be able to go back there and finish my career there, it was awesome. The guys I played with this year made it so much fun, all the guys in the locker room, especially the receivers, we had a blast. Hopefully, I helped them out in some little way. I take pride in that, in trying to help the younger guys and leave an impression on them. Hopefully, I'll be watching them for several years to be successful."

Stokley had a career-high 68 catches for 1,077 yards and 10 touchdowns during the 2004 season with Peyton Manning and the Indianapolis Colts. He earned a second Super Bowl ring with the Colts in 2006.

With the Denver Broncos last season, Stokley caught 45 passes for 544 yards and five touchdowns from Manning.

"He's one of the best teammates you'll ever have," said Ravens tight end Dallas Clark, who also played with Stokley in Indianapolis. "Just asking these guys, I don't know if you'll ever find a guy who will leave such an impact as he did in such a short time period. Guys still talk about him and ask about him. He's a tremendous friend and a tremendous football player. It's ridiculous. He's had pretty much every serious injury you can have. For him to play 15 years is incredible.

"It's a commitment that he has had his whole career. Any difficult time, any adversity he faced, he hit it head-on. That's the kind of guy he was and the player he was. Any time you needed that big third-down catch, he was going to get open and find a way to make a play. I think he made a great decision to shut it down. There's nothing left he has to prove and he's done a phenomenal job wherever he's been. I'm happy to be able to call him a teammate."

Stokley said he's not entirely sure of his future plans other than spending plenty of time with his wife, Lana, and sons, Cameron and Carson.

"I'm not completely sure," Stokley said. "I love the game, I love being around my kids and coaching their youth sports. I would want to do that and maybe do some radio stuff. I love sports, so I'll find some way to be involved with sports and also be able to spend a lot of time with my family."

awilson@baltsun.com
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FootballPro FootballBrandon StokleyBaltimore RavensNFLIndianapolis Colts
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