NFL

NFL: Why Retired Center Ryan Kalil Unretired and Joined the Jets

Longtime Carolina Panthers lineman Ryan Kalil unretired to join the New York Jets.

Ryan Kalil announced his retirement during the NFL offseason, but it turned out to be little more than a brief vacation. Kalil recently announced the end of his brief retirement by signing with the New York Jets. It’s the first big move by new GM Joe Douglas, who took over the duties in June. Kalil’s return with the Jets will be his first season away from the Carolina Panthers and his 13th season overall.

Ryan Kalil’s Career

Longtime Carolina Panthers lineman Ryan Kalil unretired to join the New York Jets.
Longtime Carolina Panthers lineman Ryan Kalil unretired to join the New York Jets. | Grant Halverson/Getty Images

Kalil has had about as good of a career as one could ask from a center. His five Pro Bowls show that he is consistently among the best at his position, and his two First Team All-Pro selections confirm it. His work on the offensive line has helped make Cam Newton’s job at quarterback easier. He played in 148 games with the Panthers, starting in all but three of them. 

One concern for Kalil as he returns is his health. Although he played in all 16 games during the 2018 season, he played in only 14 games combined the previous two seasons. When healthy, however, Kalil has been a consistent, hard-working, and reliable option for the Panthers’ offense, and this shouldn’t change in New York. 

Entering retirement

Ryan Kalil announced his retirement at the end of the Jets season after playing in a final game where many players chose to rest. Seemingly serious at the time, Kalil reflected on what he believed to be his final game as an NFL player. 

“A lot of those guys are coming back,” Kalil said to Panthers.com about his decision to play in a game where many people rest. “It was the last time I was ever putting a helmet on. There wasn’t a chance I was coming out of the game.” 

Spending 12 years with one team is an accomplishment few can relate to, but the fact that there was this mutual love between Kalil and the team appears to be a testament to the impact he has on the team on and off the field. 

Return with the Jets 

Talking to NFL.com, Kalil said that after enjoying a little bit of retirement action, even if it was only during the offseason, he felt like he had more to give the NFL. When the Jets came calling, there was no doubt that he was ready to take the field again. 

“Coming off 2018. healthy, feeling great, feeling spry again, I just felt like I had more football,”  Kalil told NFL.com. “And, by the time I sort of came around to collecting my thoughts and my feelings about it, it was already too late in Carolina. They moved on.”

With young quarterback Sam Darnold and the addition of running back Le’Veon Bell, the Jets needed somebody who could help protect their line. Kalil was the ideal fit for an offensive line that needed the boost.

Darnold is a big reason Ryan Kalil ended his retirement and returned with the Jets. Both are former USC players, and they knew each other before becoming teammates.

“He’s a big reason for me being here,” Kalil said, according to Jets Wire. “I’ve been a fan of Sam’s since watching him at [USC], and Sam and I know each other a little bit. … I just got excited at the opportunity to come and work with him.”

Looking forward

Even in his thirteenth season, Kalil should offer everything that the Jets may need. Although he spoke beamingly about his time in Carolina, he is looking forward to the fresh start. 

“I look forward to getting after it and getting back into it and just grateful for the opportunity to live the dream a little bit longer,” Kalil said, “I’m here to compete, play hard, I’ve got some good football left in me and I hope I don’t let you guys down.”

The center position doesn’t garner a lot of attention in the NFL, but for an offense to work well, having a guy like Ryan Kalil there should help give the Jets a needed boost. His veteran experience in a younger locker room will be valuable for players in all positions.