The Tennessee Titans said farewell to one of it's own Thursday when Guard Benji Olson officially announced his retirement. The ten year veteran has played his entire career with the Titans as one of the most consistent players on the offensive line. Here is what he and his coaches had to say from
What were you most proud of in your career?
Benji Olson "I'm probably most proud of just making it this long. I know when I came out of college after my sophomore year, I just had back surgery back then. Part of the reason I decided to come out early was I didn't know how many years I had left on my back. The fact that I've made it this long dealing with my back, and the last couple of years it's gotten chronically worse and harder to deal with…just hanging in there and being able to go out there and fight through back pain. It's just a blessing to be able to play in the NFL. I'm just happy that I was able to stay here with this great franchise with great coaches -- Coach Fisher and ‘Munch' (Mike Munchak). ‘Munch' is probably the best o-line coach in the league. He made the job easier by what he taught me and I just want to thank him for that. I appreciate it. It was fun, man. It was a good ride, and now I get to save a little back for the golf course. I want to thank
How long did you think you would last in the NFL?
Benji Olson "When I came out, I was shooting for four or five years. Honestly, I was just shooting to make the team when I got here. I was just happy that these guys took a chance on me, on a guy that had just recently had back surgery and there were definitely issues about it. I'm just glad they took a chance on me and that I was able to deliver and put together a pretty good career."
How tough were the last couple of years physically on you?
Benji Olson "It was really hard. As a player that loves to play the game, you want to be out there every play, every snap and do what you can to make the team successful. Last year, especially, got really hard with the back issues and it was tough not being able to go out there. I gave it my best and tried to contribute the best way I could."
How do you feel physically now?
Benji Olson "Dropping some weight is something that will probably help. Right now it (the back) has calmed down pretty good. I think without driving 325-pound guys around 60 times a game is going to help me a lot. I'm hoping after a year off I'm going to feel a lot better, but right now I'm feeling way better than I was at the end of the season, obviously. As you feel good in the off-season, you start thinking, ‘okay, well, maybe one more year,' but Coach Fisher knows that I could barely get through camp last year. We didn't know if I was going to be able to get through the season because it was acting up so bad. I started thinking about trying one more year, let's try one more year, but I know as soon as I get back out there with the contact, and the way the game is so physical and hard on your body, I knew it would be a couple of more days and I would be right back where I was, probably."
Benji Olson "Jason and Brad have always kind of been on the lighter side. I've always been a big dude, so I would say a goal for me would be like 290, 280 if I could. When I was a senior in high school I was 285. I wasn't fat by any means. I was pretty slim, actually, for a 280 guy, which sounds pretty weird. I don't know. It's going to be a challenge, so we'll see what happens."
What are your emotions like as you go through this process today?
Benji Olson "I think it's all of the emotions. Like I said, it's tough. You've been doing something for so long, you kind of get institutionalized, I guess, and you feel like, what do I do now? You don't know what to do with yourself because you've done it so long. There is some relief because I know I'm moving on and there's no more tearing myself up thinking about what to do. It's sad because you're going to miss the guys. That's the one thing that I've gotten from the guys that have retired is the thing you miss the most is the camaraderie, the boys, hanging out and all that stuff. I'm definitely not going to miss (Steve) Watterson's workouts. I think the biggest thing I'm going to miss is playing in the games, because that's what it was all about – running out there on game day and going out there and having fun."
Are you happy to have seen the team through being a Super Bowl team, to going through salary cap struggles, then making it back to the playoffs again?
Benji Olson "It was definitely a fun experience. I was talking with Coach earlier, I got here my rookie year and I had left my junior year and I remember we were playing at Vanderbilt. Me and a couple of other rookies would go in there and there weren't enough lockers for everybody, so all of our stuff was just thrown in a pile in the middle of the locker room with no air conditioning and I just remember going, ‘why did I leave early for this? I thought this was the NFL. What's going on?" But then the next year we got the new team, the new uniforms, the stadium and got to go to the Super Bowl. It was one of the greatest experiences I'll ever have, going on that run we went on for a few years when we were making the playoffs and playing well. We went through the lull, but last year was exciting to get back into the playoffs, and there's a lot to look forward to with this organization."
What was your personal highlight?
Benji Olson "As my play? I had a couple of plays. ‘Munch' was talking about some pulling and stuff. I had one counter where I cleaned a guy out pretty good up in
How emotional was the decision?
Benji Olson "It's very emotional. I think going through what I did last year as far as the back pain and all that stuff was just hard. You can ask my wife. It was just hard getting up every day and coming in. I was practicing like once a week because it was so hard and painful. When I think about going through that last year, it's not really hard to make the decision emotionally because down the road it's going to hopefully pay off when my back feels better. It's a very emotionally deal retiring after doing something for so long."
HEAD COACH JEFF FISHER
Jeff Fisher "Good afternoon. I want to thank everyone for coming. Typically at this time of the year when we have a press conference, we are introducing a player who is going to be starting a career with us. Today we are gathered to celebrate a 10-year career, a unique career. This is a unique opportunity because this is the first time in franchise history where we're going to introduce to you a player who is retiring that has started and finished his career as a Titan (in Tennessee). Benji is the first player in franchise history to start his career as a Titan and to retire as a Titan (in
OFFENSIVE LINE COACH MIKE MUNCHAK
Mike Munchak "I know it is a tough day for Benji. It is hard to walk away from something you love to do. It is something he has been doing for a long time since he was eight or nine years old. That is really tough for anyone to do. When I heard today that he was going to officially retire, I started reflecting back on his career. What I thought I would do today was put together some notes and thoughts that I kind of wanted to share with you of his career. Benji's play at right guard has played a huge part in the success we have had as a team and as an offensive line over the past 10 seasons. In 1998, which was his rookie year, midway through the season one of our offensive linemen got hurt and he had his first chance to start and we were heading to up to Baltimore which was an away game and a big division game at the time. This was his first opportunity and we get the ball on the first drive backed up inside our 10-yard line. He runs out there and the crowd is going pretty nuts there. The first play we run the ball and we gain a yard I think. On second down we come out and it is pretty noisy out there and I think he thought he heard Steve [McNair] and all of a sudden he flinches and they throw the flag and we lose five yards. Now we are backed up inside the five-yard line. The next play I hear the call and it comes out and it is a pass play and I think ‘oh, boy.' They call pass and I know in his mind he is thinking I can't go offsides again and he had all kinds of things going through his mind so he is late off the ball and the guy who is on him swims by real fast and sacks Steve and unfortunately he is in the end zone. So it is not only a sack, but it is a safety. We come off the field after his first three plays in the NFL and I'm thinking what do I say to this guy? So I just wait. We come off the field and we all come down to the end of the field and we all sit by each other. We get our five guys lined up, and I'm ready to say something and you know how veterans are, they want to help rookies out and they want to encourage them, so I don't know if it was [Mark] Stepnoski or [Bruce] Matthews, and he leans over and says, ‘hey rook the good thing is, it can't get any worse than that.' The amazing thing was nothing else needed to be said. He found a way to put that behind him and went on to play the game. We had a lot of game to play, another 65 plays, and played really well. We won the game and I think Eddie [George] rushed for over 100 yards. That is something that some guys never overcome. In this league you are going to have your ups and downs. Here he is in that first game putting it behind him and going out and playing real well. His next season was his first offseason to train. I think Steve Watterson did a great job with him in that area with his strength and resculpting this fine body that mind you was 325 pounds at the time when he came in. He worked hard in the offseason with me with his techniques and with the line. He had a great camp that year which was 1999, so he became the starter at right guard in 1999 which a lot of you know was our Super Bowl season. He held that position for the next nine years because of his work ethic and his commitment to the field and to the weight room as hard as he worked. As Coach Fisher mentioned, he went on to start over 150 games. I think at one time he had started 85 consecutive games without missing a game which is unbelievable and during that time he probably played as well as any offensive guard in football. Quietly maybe, what a heck of a job he did. To me he was probably the most consistent I ever coached and I say that because when the season ends I go back and I watch the tape over and over again, he always graded out as my top lineman or my top two linemen. He had the fewest penalties every year. He went games with the fewest sacks with me. He went games and seasons where he had no motion penalties the whole season. He wouldn't go off sides once and if he did it was once or twice the whole season. Some guys do that in one game. It shows you the concentration level and the discipline he had within his game. Obviously, his technique is what I think kept him in the league this long. The guys talk about technicians with offensive linemen and you hear that word used very loosely and that is exactly how I would describe this guy. With his technique, he realized how important that was and his strength. That is something he really worked at. He did everything the way you asked him to do it. He was always in position because his footwork, his hands and his eyes, to have success. I think he was a great example to some of the guys that are here and that have played with us in the past with Jacob Bell, [Justin] Hartwig, [