ASHBURN — As Ryan Kerrigan retires from football, the former defensive end knows he carries a distinct honor: With the Burgundy and Gold now rebranded as the Commanders, Kerrigan will likely be remembered as the last prolific Redskins player.
“It’s really cool,” Kerrigan said. “I know this team means a lot to a lot of people, and it’s one of the older teams, one of the older franchises in the league and had a lot of great players come through. So for people to think of me that way is pretty damn cool.”
The Commanders have 11 players in camp who played under the team’s former moniker. But none carry the type of legacy that Kerrigan did in a Redskins uniform — with the 33-year-old setting the franchise’s all-time sacks record and whose durability led to an astonishing 139-game iron-man streak.
At a press conference Saturday, Kerrigan said he wants to be his legacy to be simply known for giving his team — and the sport — everything he had. This, after all, was coming from a man whose strict routine often led to him drinking 300 ounces of water a day, eating meals of just grilled chicken with brown rice and spending what amounted to hours of ice baths to focus on his recovery.
Kerrigan learned in his 11-year career — 10 with Washington — that being “available” didn’t always mean healthy.
“You make the decisions you make and you live with the results,” Kerrigan said with a smile. “It meant a lot to me. Me being out there for 139 straight games or whatever and being ready to play was a testament to how I felt about the game and how I felt about my approach to it.”
Kerrigan’s retirement was at least a year in the making. The former first-rounder told reporters that in the spring of 2021, doctors diagnosed with a significant knee injury that helped the pass-rusher realize that he would soon need to step away. So, Kerrigan privately committed to playing one last season, signing a one-year deal with the Philadelphia Eagles.
It’s why Kerrigan seemed at peace with his decision as his wife and three children were in attendance for Saturday’s ceremony. Despite Kerrigan playing the 2021 season with the Eagles — Washington’s bitter division rival — the franchise welcomed him back with open arms as the Purdue product signed a ceremonial one-day contract Friday to retire with the Burgundy and Gold.
On Friday, Kerrigan walked into the team’s facility and was met with a round of applause. Defensive end Chase Young, who has credited Kerrigan for mentoring him as a rookie in 2020, gave Kerrigan a hug.
“He‘s a guy that always could help set the example,” said Ron Rivera, who coached Kerrigan for only one season. “You only get so many of those guys, and when you get them, they most certainly need to be celebrated.”
Added center Chase Roullier: “Ryan is the epitome of an NFL player in so many different ways … one of the most hard-working guys I’ve ever seen.”
Now that his career is done, Kerrigan said he wants to venture into coaching. But Washington, he said, will always hold meaning. Even if the franchise now goes by a different name — one that Kerrigan said he likes.
“This is where my heart is,” Kerrigan said. “This is where I started. This is where I unfortunately wasn’t able to finish. … It’s exciting. It’s a new era of football here in Washington, and I’m hoping that means a lot of wins in the future, some playoff wins — something that I unfortunately didn’t get to experience here.”
Day 4 observations:
- Though Kerrigan was the main story of the team’s fourth day of practice, the Commanders’ offense quietly had their best performance of camp so far. Focusing on red zone and two-minute situations, Wentz displayed chemistry with star wideout Terry McLaurin and rookie Jahan Dotson, the latter of whom hauled in a bullet of a pass from Wentz in the end zone.
- Rivera rested a number of veterans ahead of Sunday’s scheduled off-day, a group that included left tackle Charles Leno, guard Andrew Norwell, defensive lineman Jonathan Allen, defensive end Montez Sweat and wide receiver Curtis Samuel. The planned rest gave the Commanders an opportunity to evaluate a series of younger players such wideout Dyami Brown and rookie defensive tackle Phidarian Mathis.
- With Logan Thomas rehabbing an ACL injury and 2021 fourth-rounder John Bates sidelined with an unspecified injury, the competition at tight end is wide open. Rookie Cole Turner, with his size at 6-foot-6, could emerge as a valuable red-zone target. Sammis Reyes, Armani Rodgers and Curtis Hodges have all had nice moments behind him.