JACKSONVILLE – Paul Posluszny made it through without crying.
Still, while the longtime – and now former – linebacker controlled his emotions as he was being honored by the Jaguars on Monday, make no mistake:
This was a tough day for the tough guy who spent seven seasons defining toughness in the middle of the Jaguars’ defense.
“It’s the most difficult thing I’ve ever had to do when it comes to our profession; I know how much I’m going to miss it,” Posluszny said.
Posluszny, a five-time Jaguars defensive captain, announced his retirement from the NFL last month after 11 seasons – the last seven with the Jaguars. Monday’s ceremony was to honor Posluszny – which the team did with a framed No. 51 jersey – and for Posluszny to speak publicly about the decision.
Pro Bowl linebacker Telvin Smith – a teammate of Posluszny’s since 2014 – introduced Posluszny at the ceremony. Smith unsuccessfully fought tears through an emotional five-minute introduction.
“I promise you, as soon as I met him, I knew I had a guy I could trust, and who I could depend on – and I love him,” Smith said.
Posluszny, as he did in a letter announcing his decision last month, on Monday said retiring wasn’t something he wanted to do.
Take a look back at Poz's time in a Jaguars uniform.
“I don’t want to do this; I don’t want to retire,” Posluszny said. “I want to keep playing.”
But he said believed it was time.
“What was more important for me was I didn’t want to back out on the field and be a step too slow – or miss a play,” Posluszny said. “If I’m out on the field with Telvin and [linebacker] Myles [Jack], and they expect me to do something and I miss that play because I held on a year too long? I don’t know how I’d look at them. That was unacceptable to me.”
Posluszny said he didn’t know for certain his play would regress in 2018.
“But it could,” he said. “There’s a high probability and I know that’s right around the corner – and once it hits, it hits. You don’t stop it. Avoiding that was the most important thing.
“It’s my time. I love the game too much and I respect it too much to not be able to physically do everything I’ve done in years past. If that’s a year too early, maybe I’m going to regret it. But I’d rather it be a year too early than one play too late.”
The Jaguars’ 10-6 AFC South title this past season marked his first winning season and first postseason appearance, and Posluszny said he had an idea leading to and following the team’s loss in the AFC Championship Game to the New England Patriots that the game would be his last.
He said he made the decision a few weeks later.
“I knew my time was coming,” he said.
Posluszny, the Jaguars’ starting middle linebacker the past seven seasons, was the first-team middle linebacker in all 16 games this past season. Whereas he had played a full-time role in his first six seasons with the team, he played mainly in the team’s base defense this past season, playing in run situations and coming off the field in nickel situations. A Pro Bowl selection in 2013, he played extensively on special teams this past season.
Posluszny, originally a second-round selection by the Buffalo Bills in the 2007 NFL Draft from Penn State University, signed with the Jaguars as an unrestricted free agent shortly before the 2011 season.
He led the Jaguars in tackles in 2011, 2012, 2013, 2015 and 2016. His 11 interceptions are franchise record for a linebacker.
“I absolutely loved being a Jacksonville Jaguar,” he said Monday. “I tried to give everything I could while I had the privilege of serving here.”
Images from Paul Posluszny's retirement ceremony at EverBank Field on Monday afternoon.
Jaguars Executive Vice President of Football Operations Tom Coughlin and General Manager David Caldwell attended Monday’s ceremony, as did Head Coach Doug Marrone and defensive coordinator Todd Wash and multiple members of the team’s coaching staff and football operations department. Defensive end Calais Campbell also attended along with wide receiver Keelan Cole, offensive tackle Cam Robinson, offensive lineman Josh Wells, linebacker Myles Jack, quarterback Blake Bortles and Smith.
Former Jaguars kicker Josh Scobee also attended, as did former Jaguars defensive end Austen Lane and former cornerback Rashean Mathis. Posluszny introduced Scobee at Scobee’s retirement ceremony in 2017.
Posluszny upon being introduced thanked Coughlin, Marrone, Caldwell, team trainers, video staff, strength and conditioning staff, coaches, Jaguars Owners Shad and Tony Khan and other support staff. He then thanked his teammates, saying “this is going to be the hardest one – the hardest and the most important.”
“The reason why I loved the game so much and why playing in the NFL was so important to me was simply to have the opportunity to be around you guys,” he said, addressing his former teammates in the crowd and adding of the bond they shared, “The great fear of mine is I don’t know where to find that in the rest of society, where you can be in that type of environment. …
“That’s the best part about the NFL, is your teammates – your teammates and the environment you create in that locker room, where you know you’re going to do everything you can and play as hard as you can so that he [your teammate] has success.
“To me, that’s priceless – and I know that’s what I’m going to miss the most. Hands down.”