NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — Delanie Walker knew his broken ankle was bad when he didn't feel any pain while on the field in Miami.
Not because of shock. The nerve-endings had been severed.
“At that point, I kind of felt like this is going to be a tough one to come back from," Walker said Tuesday. "But knowing me, I was that guy, knowing that I wanted to come back early. I wanted to show the team that I worked my butt off to get back on this field. And, you know, it just didn’t happen the way I wanted it to.”
Walker broke his ankle in the 2018 season opener, the first game under his new head coach Mike Vrabel in what wound up as the NFL's longest game. Walker played seven more games in 2019, and the three-time Pro Bowl tight end finally retired Tuesday from the NFL after 14 seasons — nearly three years after his final game.
A new job with the NFL's Legends Community helped Walker realize that the time to transition had arrived.
“There’s no other job in the world like the NFL,” Walker said. "So it took me a while to realize that I probably wasn’t going to be able to play again. And that moment hit once I got my new job, I just realized that it was time to hang it up and I wanted to do it with the Tennessee Titans.”
A sixth-round pick out of Central Missouri in 2006 at No. 175 overall, Walker wound up playing 14 years in the NFL with 504 catches for 5,888 yards and 36 touchdowns in 183 games. He spent his first seven seasons with the San Francisco 49ers where he had just eight touchdowns playing behind Vernon Davis.
When Tennessee called offering the California native an opportunity to be the Titans' No. 1 tight end, Walker jumped at the opportunity in 2013. Starting that year, h e led all NFL tight ends with 356 catches through 2017.
Walker was a four-time team captain and a Pro Bowl pick in 2015, 2016 and 2017. He was the team's Walter Payton NFL Man of the Year nominee in 2013 and 2015 for his work including with Mothers Against Drunk Driving.
His 28 TD catches for Tennessee leads all tight ends for the franchise. Walker ranks second in franchise history behind Frank Wycheck with 381 receptions for 4,423 yards receiving. Titans controlling owner Amy Adams Strunk congratulated Walker on a fantastic career capped by a news conference at Nissan Stadium.
“Delanie will always be considered part of the Titans family, and we wish him continued success in the years to come,” Strunk said.
Titans general manager Jon Robinson recalled needing a map to find Central Missouri State to scout Walker while working for the New England Patriots. Robinson said he couldn't have been happier to have Walker on the Titans' roster when he was hired as general manager in January 2016.
“I’m proud to have worked with you, Delaney," Robinson said. "We as an organization are extremely excited that you are choosing to retire as a Tennessee Titan. And congrats on every single thing that you’ve been able to accomplish, man. Proud of you.”
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