Tennessee Titans punter Craig Hentrich has decided to call it a career after 17 years in the NFL.
Hentrich announced his retirement on Wednesday, a story first reported by The City Paper.
“I’ve punted for 17 years in this league, and that’s long enough,” Hentrich said Wednesday.
The 38-year-old has been Tennessee’s punter since 1998. Prior to that, he spent four seasons with the Green Bay Packers. He was a two-time Pro Bowler (1998, 2003) and the last continuous member of the Titans’ 1999 Super Bowl team.
Hentrich tore his calf muscle against the Houston Texans in September and eventually was placed on injured reserve. He averaged 46.9 yards per punt on his nine kicks in 2009. During that time, he also had an old ACL injury repaired as well.
Hentrich had contemplated retirement after the 2008 season, but elected to return for another season after engaging in a special Bibically-based diet and exercise program. The injuries were still a part of the equation, and that, plus his age is what led Hentrich to hang up his cleats.
“The decision to retire came from old age,” Hentrich continued. “It’s just been a ton of injuries the last three or four years. I think it’s just my body telling me it’s time to quit. I’ve been doing this for 17 years in the league and really 32 years of my life kicking footballs. I think my body is just tired. I am going finish rehabbing my knee and then enjoy some downtime, while I evaluate what challenge waits next for me.”
The blow Hentrich's retirement leaves for the Titans' special teams is lessened by the success enjoyed by Brett Kern, who was claimed off waivers from Denver in mid-season. Hentrich spent time as a tutor for Kern after going on IR, and even taught the second-year pro his knuckleball punt.
Titans coach Jeff Fisher was appreciative of Hentrich’s many contributions, which ranged far beyond simply serving as a punter.
“It very hard in this game to walk away on your own terms and Craig is doing that today,” said Titans Head Coach Jeff Fisher. “Craig was a tremendous athlete at the punter position and his versatility and consistency were some of the reasons for our success over his time with us.
"He wasn’t only a punter, he was a holder, field goal kicker, kickoff guy and a passer. He was a great teammate and an unselfish player.”
For his career, Hentrich averaged 42.9 yards per punt on 1,150 attempts. Hentrich was also versatile, serving as the Titans holder during his tenure with the club, as well as handling kickoffs and even occasional field goals in his career.
He hit on 8 of 15 career field goal attempts, including a 50-yarder in 2004. Hentrich also served as the Titans emergency quarterback for much of his career. He completed 7 of 16 passes in his time off fake punts.
“I think overall it was a successful career and I wouldn’t trade a second of it. Consistency is what I’ve tried to pride myself on my whole career," said Hentrich, who thanked owner Bud Adams and the Titans organization. "A lot of guys can go out and kick 60-yard punts all day, but 60-yard punts are going to be taken back for touchdowns, so I really tried to pride myself on not trying to outkick my coverage, being consistent, doing the things they ask me to do.”