OWINGS MILLS, Md. – Much thinner and chattier than during his playing days, Marshal Yanda retired from the NFL on Wednesday with the satisfaction of knowing he walked away before being kicked out the door.
Yanda played his entire 13-year career with the Baltimore Ravens, who showed their appreciation for the eight-time Pro Bowl guard by sending him off with a framed No. 73 jersey and heartfelt thanks during a classy news conference. The ceremony began with a video tribute and was highlighted by a lengthy prepared speech from the guest of honor, a man known for keeping his sentences short and for his aversion to talking to the media.
“I played this game because I loved the game," Yanda said. “I love competing, I loved the teammates and the struggle and the grind. I loved that every single day. That's why I played."
So why walk away now, only a couple months removed from a season in which he was completely healthy, played in the Pro Bowl and was voted second-team All-Pro?
“I've watched guys as they got older lose a little bit more each year, and then by the end they were almost like a liability. In the back of mind I said I never wanted to be like that," said Yanda, 35, who was surrounded on the stage by executive vice president Ozzie Newsome, general manager Eric DeCosta and coach John Harbaugh.
“I wanted to be up here with these guys wanting me back, rather than being at the other end of it saying, 'We're happy you're retiring,'" Yanda said. “I wanted to end playing well."
Yanda played in 177 games, tied with Jonathan Ogden for most in franchise history among offensive linemen. After a 2017 season in which ankle and shoulder injuries limited his playing time to two games, he began to think about what life might be after football.
“It was in my mind the last two years. And then (last) year, I felt that if I made it through healthy again, that no matter what happened that this was probably going to be it," Yanda said.