Eagles blog

The end of the road for Jason Kelce

Jason Kelce was noticeably emotional after what could have been his final NFL game.

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TAMPA — A red-eyed Jason Kelce finished getting dressed, picked up his bag and apologetically sliced through a group of reporters gathered around his locker stall at Raymond James Stadium.

“No, guys,” Kelce said. “Not today.”

There was no announcement. Nothing definitive. 

But it really seemed like the Eagles legend and future Hall of Famer played his final football game on Monday night as the Eagles fell 32-9 to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in the playoffs.

And on Tuesday morning, ESPN's Adam Schefter reported that Kelce told his teammates last night that he is indeed retiring.

The emotional scenes from the field and as Kelce made his way to the locker room were telling.

It wasn’t a storybook ending for the 36-year-old center but it was a heckuva a career. Kelce, 36, went from a sixth-round pick in 2011 out of Cincinnati to an all-time great. A seven-time Pro Bowler, six-time All-Pro, Super Bowl champion, best center of a generation and a forever folk hero in Philly.

“I love him,” longtime teammate Lane Johnson said. “He’s one of my brothers. I never had a brother growing up. I was an only child. These guys are my family. So I love him. He’s one of the best centers to ever play the game. There’s few guys who could do the things that he could do on the football field athletically. I don’t think we’ll see another one like him for a long time.”

It was a fun ride while it lasted.

And there’s no questioning how much Kelce has meant to the Eagles organization and his teammates, new and old.

“You know man, he's a legend in the city,” Jalen Hurts said. “Really in the league. I don't want to do a disservice to him and the things he's been able to do and overcome. His journey to where he is now didn't come easy. It’s been a long, long time coming for him, and every year since I've been here it's been, are you going to come back?

“But he knows how much I love and appreciate him. He knows how much I've learned from him. He'll forever have a special place in my heart.”

Kelce has flirted with retirement for the past several seasons so this is not a shocker. After the Eagles made it to the Super Bowl last year, Kelce decided to run it back and the Eagles were happy to oblige. They made sure he was still the highest-paid center in the NFL and then Kelce continued to play like the best center in the league.

“He’s hinted at it,” Johnson said. “I think that’s going to be him that’s going to have to make that call. I mean, I was playing like it was his last. You never know. You’re going to have to ask him that.”

And we will. Soon enough. And Kelce will officially deliver the news himself.

There’s no doubt Kelce could still play if he wants to. But Kelce is also a father and husband, he has an extremely successful podcast with his brother Travis and will likely be fantastic on television if that’s the route he chooses. There’s plenty waiting for Jason Kelce after football.

But none of that likely made Monday any easier. There's no doubt that was a rough way to go out — a 32-9 loss to cap an epic collapse. But you never had to question Kelce through it. You knew he was still giving his all.

Left tackle Jordan Mailata even said Kelce was leading up until the end of Monday’s loss.

“A true leader to the final whistle. That’s why I love him,” Mailata said. “The guy taught me how to lead.”

Earlier this season, Kelce set the franchise record for consecutive regular season starts, breaking Jon Runyan’s record. Kelce hasn’t missed a game since the 2014 season. Heck, he barely misses any snaps.

He’s one of one.

“Yeah, I love him. I love him,” head coach Nick Sirianni said. “Yeah, obviously we're not there at that position yet, ready to talk about that, but he's special and I love him. He's one of the most special guys I've been around.

“Yeah, obviously, always — he's always got a place here and always want him to play. See what happens as time progresses here.”

It’s strange to even think about the Philadelphia Eagles without Jason Kelce.

But that day has finally arrived.

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