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A knee injury forced Ryan Kerrigan to retire, but he can’t bear to leave

Updated: Jun 16, 2023

By: Alicia Chen

Ryan Kerrigan, of the Washington Commanders, was a legendary football player who was forced to retire because of his knee. Though he already signed the paperwork that proved his retirement, he loves his sport too much to put it down.

Before he retired, he took a few months off because his knee was shot. “[I] was like, ‘Oh, my body feels nice! I can do this again,’” he said, “It’s like, well you haven’t trained for football in two months, so you got to kind of acknowledge the truth there.”

Doctors encouraged him to quit and just call it a career because of the bad reports on his knee in May 2021.

And he did. But even though his knee was ready and so was his body, his mind was reluctant and wanted more playing.

When he returned to Ashburn, he was warmly welcomed with familiar faces. There, he signed his one-day contract to end his football career.

Coach Ron Rivera said, “He’s a guy that you could always count on, he’s a guy that could always set the example. I mean, you only get so many of these guys, and when you get them, they most certainly need to be celebrated.

“He’s a guy I looked up to since middle school,” said Chase Young, who has also been recovering from a knee injury. “So it was definitely an honor just to play with him. Good to see him. Good to see all the little RKs with him…RK never really talked too much, but when he joked, it was funny. I used to want him to talk more. Just how we used to laugh in practice and he would give me certain things, certain tips on the field.”

Many players in Washington still view Kerrigan as someone who taught them a recovery technique, or a move on the field. His work ethic was viewed as legendary as well as on the border of maniacal.

He lived an all-consuming football style. Every meal, every decision, and every move was directed by football. Every time he did those things, he would think, “Will this help me be better at football?”

But since he retired, his lifestyle has been freer. He can now eat what he wants without thinking what it will do to his body.

Kerrigan said, “I just want fans to know that I gave them everything I had, like, literally everything I had. Emotionally, physically, they got all of me. Football was my life. …I just want fans to know that it meant that much to me, that my performance and what I was showing on Sundays was that important to me, that it was my driving force in life.”

Even though all the paperwork and the contracts show that Kerrigan is done with football, he still yearns for the field. He wants to be a coach so he can mentor other budding, young football players.

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