OWINGS MILLS - Compliments cascaded like a waterfall toward Michael McCrary as the Baltimore Ravens' Pro Bowl pass rusher officially announced his retirement from football. In a packed room that included his parents, fiancée and daughter along with teammates, owner Art Modell, coach Brian Billick, general manager Ozzie Newsome and Maryland Special Olympics athletes, the defensive end kept his composure Thursday while reflecting on a sterling career shortened by chronic knee injuries.
"This is like the conclusion of my book," said McCrary, the Ravens' second most prolific pass rusher ever. "Wow, what a wonderful conclusion. I am really going to miss this. "I can't even watch a football game now because I still have that fire inside me. I guess the only way to quench it is to stay completely away from it, but it's hard." McCrary will be inducted into the team's Ring of Honor and is contemplating a future role with the organization, possibly as an assistant coach.
Doctors informed McCrary after last season that he should have stopped playing football years ago. He has suffered permanent damage to both knees. "You know as a friend what you did to go through it all, just to fight with us," linebacker Ray Lewis said. "I've got you for life. I always told you that. "You are a part of what we started and what we can keep going. Michael McCrary will never die in Baltimore. He'll definitely never die in my heart."
Defensive line coach Rex Ryan burst into tears when it was his turn to remark on one of the headliners on a defense that led the Ravens to a Super Bowl win. "Passion and accountability," Billick said. "We want players with those, and no Raven better served those two characteristics than Michael. It was a privilege to coach him."
Despite being undersized for his position at 6-foot-4 and 260 pounds, McCrary thrived during a decade in the NFL through constant pursuit and trademark toughness. "He has a motor that never stops," Modell said. "I have mixed emotions that he is leaving. At the same time, I'm happy for him because he took enough punishment." McCrary had career totals of 71 sacks, including 51 in his six seasons in Baltimore, with two Pro Bowl selections and 368 tackles. "Any young player coming into the league, if they want to know what passion is, if they want to know how to play the game and how to play it with heart, you really set the bar high," outside linebacker Peter Boulware said.
A former seventh-round draft pick of the Seattle Seahawks who Newsome said prompted the Ravens to employ a 4-3 set, McCrary had six sacks during the Ravens' postseason run toward winning Super Bowl XXXV. McCrary crawled on his hands and knees in that game to sack New York Giants quarterback Kerry Collins. "Michael had a football temperament," Newsome said. "He was relentless."
Besides Special Olympics, McCrary is active with the United Way and sponsors tutoring for remedial and special education students. "On the field, he is a monster," defensive end Adalius Thomas said. "Off the field, he's as soft as cotton." It's literally difficult for McCrary to walk away from the NFL. "I feel down, of course I feel down," McCrary said. "But look around, look at what I got. I got everything."
MEDICAL UPDATE: Although first-round draft pick Terrell Suggs' neck feels better and Cornell Brown's strained hamstring has improved, converted end Adalius Thomas is still set to start Saturday against the Washington Redskins. "I'm back to full-strength, ready to go," said Suggs, who sat out against the Atlanta Falcons. "They told me I could do everything but goal line." Suggs, who set an NCAA mark with 24 sacks last fall at Arizona State, is still awaiting his first sack in an NFL game. "It's just a matter of time when I get there," Suggs said. "I'm smelling it, but I don't know when it's going to happen." Running back Musa Smith (knee), is day-to-day, along with tight end John Jones (strained trapezius), trainer Bill Tessendorf said. Jones also suffered a mild concussion against Atlanta. Return specialist Lamont Brightful (knee) estimates his capabilities at 95 percent and said he's likely to play. "It's still got that little bit of soreness left," he said. The injured list includes: receiver Frank Sanders (toes), cornerback Tom Knight (hamstring), Alvin Porter (groin), linebacker Bernardo Harris (broken leg), safety Ray Perryman (shoulder) and return specialist Hugh Smith (shoulder). Punter Dave Zastudil (hamstring), center Mike Flynn (knee), fullback Harold Morrow (knee) aren't 100 percent yet, but are practicing. Tight end Trent Smith (broken leg) and receiver Javin Hunter (ruptured Achilles' tendon) are out for the season.
QUICK HIT: McCrary announced the opening of Mac's Bagels, which he said will remain open through the appetite of beefy former Ravens lineman Tony Siragusa.
Aaron Wilson writes for The Carroll County Times