After 16 seasons of split-second decisions — primarily whether or not and where to throw the football — Kerry Collins finally had time to think.
The veteran quarterback realized as soon as the 2010 season ended that he likely had played his final game.
The NFL lockout, though, removed any need to make an immediate decision. So he waited while the Tennessee Titans executed a coaching change. He talked to others who had been through the retirement process. He played basketball and worked out so as to keep himself in shape.
Through it all, his mind never changed.
“With the lockout, I really didn’t have to do anything,” Collins said Wednesday. “I wasn’t up against a deadline. [Teams] didn’t have to know anything. There was no contact or communication.
“… I knew what I felt but I wanted to make sure, and that was going to take some time. I kept trying to find the place in my head where I could go there and [playing another season] was something I would be willing to commit to, and I just couldn’t get there.”
He made public his decision on July 7 with a statement issued from the office of his agent.
Wednesday, he hosted a small group of local reporters at his Music Row office and discussed his career, which began with much fanfare before issues with alcohol temporarily derailed him, and why he finally ended it. It was a low-key, light-hearted session absent — at his request — any cameras or video equipment.
Collins also discussed why, only three weeks earlier, at the Jeff Fisher charity softball game, he had said he felt he could play another year or two and hoped some team would give him that opportunity.
“That wasn’t the time for me,” he said. “But as time went on and I kind of saw the lockout, maybe, coming to end, and I wanted to give [the Titans] enough time — whether or not I was in their plans … to adjust their plans and go with whatever plan they wanted to go to.
“I wanted to keep my options open at that point, but I knew.”
He said the decision was complicated somewhat by the fact that the Titans hired Mike Munchak to replace Jeff Fisher.
“I really respect Munch and I have a really good relationship with him,” Collins said. “Once he got hired, I wanted to keep giving myself time to make sure that that wasn’t going to be a big enough pull for me to come back.
“…It really was one of the most difficult decisions I’ve ever had to make because I did feel a pull to Munch and ties to this community.”
Yet while the lockout afforded him extra time, it also prohibited him from speaking to Munchak or anyone else with the Titans.
With his contract up and the team having drafted Jake Locker with its first pick in April, Collins had no clear idea how — if at all — the Titans planned to try and bring him back after five seasons and 32 starts.
“There’s no guarantees on where I fit in any of their plans,” he conceded. “One of the biggest reasons I’m doing it now is because I can do it on my own terms. That was very, very important to me.”
Before the Titans, he also played for Oakland, the New York Giants, New Orleans and Carolina, which drafted him fifth overall out of Penn State in 1995. He took Carolina to the NFC championship game in its second season and led the Giants to the Super Bowl in 2000.
He ended his career among the NFL’s top 15 all-time in career attempts, completions and passing yards.
“I know this: I did the best that I could each and every place that I’ve been,” Collins said. “That’s why I look back and I’m proud that I’ve lasted this long. And it’s not an easy thing to do to play 16 years and to be a starter for most of those 16 years. I’m proud of that. That, in itself, I think, says something.
“…I’m really at peace with my career. I didn’t win a Super Bowl and that’s going to bug me. I know it will.”
The timing of his departure, on the other hand, suits him just fine.
“When I sit here and look back at the age of 38 — I played 16 years, had kind of a rough start but I’m proud of the way I came back from that and the things that I’ve accomplished over the years,” he said. “So I’m at peace now.
“I would have taken a chance through negotiations or injury or playing another season or what-have-you to kind of ruin that peace a little bit, and I don’t want to do that. I felt I was in a good place in my mind with the game, and that was an important part of when I did it as well.
“…Knowing that I’m not going to have certain parts of [football] in my life is a good feeling. … I don’t think I’m going to regret the decision that I made.”