Jaguars linebacker Paul Posluszny, the second-leading tackler in franchise history, announced his retirement Tuesday.
Posluszny, who will turn 34 in October, was scheduled to become an unrestricted free agent this week. He played the final seven years of his 11-season career with the Jaguars and led the team in tackles five times.
In a thorough, 1,822-word retirement letter, Posluszny said he had made the decision, “with much sadness but without regret.”
Posluszny, a native of Pennsylvania, is expected to remain in the Jacksonville area with his wife, Elizabeth, and two daughters.
“Knowing I can no longer compete at a level that I find acceptable, I have chosen to end my football career,” Posluszny wrote. “This decision is mine alone and although I know this will not bring me happiness, it is the right and honorable action to take at this time in my life.”
Posluszny’s 973 tackles with the Jaguars trail only Daryl Smith (1,089) in the team record book. Posluszny never reached the playoffs until his final year and his last game was one win away from the Super Bowl.
Respected by teammates, opponents and coaches around the league, Posluszny was saluted following the announcement.
“When I first got [to the Jaguars in 2013], he was one of the first people that others called me about,” former Jaguars coach Gus Bradley said in a phone interview. “They said, ‘Gus, you are so fortunate to have Poz in the building, not only as a teammate but somebody you can lean on.’ And without a doubt, I felt good about having a guy like that and he exceeded the expectations.”
Bradley was one of four full-time coaches Posluszny played for on the Jaguars – Jack Del Rio, Mike Mularkey and Doug Marrone could also count on No. 51. Through the changes, losing remained a constant. Posluszny did not make the postseason until what ended up being his final season.
“For him to experience that and get to that point, you only wish it could have lasted longer for him,” said Bradley, currently the Los Angeles Chargers’ defensive coordinator.
Posluszny’s final season featured a role change. Usually a player who would never leave the field, the Jaguars leaned on Telvin Smith and Myles Jack to play those roles, meaning Posluszny did not play when the Jaguars used five defensive backs. In the regular season/playoffs, Posluszny played 521 of 1,259 snaps and had 60 tackles, his fewest since his injury-shortened rookie year (25 in three games for Buffalo in 2007).
Posluszny’s 231 tackles in 2012 is a Jaguars’ single-season record, and his 192 stops in 2011 ranks fourth.
Posluszny’s retirement letter covered his entire life.
About growing up in Pennsylvania: “The people and personality of the entire region provides a crystal clear vision of what toughness, discipline and hard work truly are. Playing youth football there provided the foundation for my entire athletic career.”
About his wife: “No one has felt the burden of my physical pain and mental anguish more than my loving wife, Elizabeth. … I would have never played for as long as I did without her endless support. … She has provided unwavering support through winning and losing, success and failure, and although she occasionally wanted to, she never once asked me to stop playing the game I love.”
About his parents: “My mother and father provided me with the perfect combination of love and discipline, and taught me what hard work and persistence truly are. All that I am and everything I have done is because of them.”
About Marrone and Jaguars executive vice president Tom Coughlin: “Success eluded me for the vast majority of my career. All of that changed with the promotion of coach Doug Marrone and the return of Tom Coughlin a year ago. I would like to offer my deepest thanks to them for allowing me to experience the most challenging off-season program and training camp of my career, for that experience prompted the success of the 2017 season. The AFC South division title was won because of the hard work and discipline you demanded of us. Thank you for bringing us out of the darkness and back into the light, and for demanding a non-negotiable standard of excellence that will propel the Jacksonville Jaguars forward for years to come. I am excited to watch and cheer for you.”
*About his pro football teammates: “I owe you everything. …Please know that I love and respect all of you, and not having the opportunity to be around you is what will hurt most of all. Forming friendships and unbreakable bonds of trust on the field is what makes football so special and so important to me.”
During his stay in Jacksonville, Posluszny grew particularly close to Robert Saleh, the Jaguars’ linebackers coach from 2014-16 who is now the San Francisco 49ers’ defensive coordinator. Saleh was hired by the Jaguars to lead a position group for the first time.
“Having him there was priceless,” Saleh said in a phone interview. “Poz wanted to do exactly the way you taught him. There was no gray area. He’ll try everything. That’s what I loved most about him – he is living proof that you can teach a man who’s been in this league new things provided it’s a two-way street. He was always trying to evolve and maximize his game and that’s why he was able to have such a long and successful career.”
Posluszny was credited by the Jaguars for helping mentor Smith and Jack on the field and in the meeting room. They followed the standard he established for how to prepare, mentally and physically.
Bradley recalled a meeting with Posluszny after the 2016 draft, when the Jaguars selected Jack in the second round. Jack was added with the specific purpose of taking Posluszny’s starting spot.
“For Poz, when we drafted Myles, it was an unbelievable opportunity for him to display what unselfishness looks like and what being an unbelievable teammate looks like,” Bradley said. “And he nailed it. I’m not sure too many people could.”
Posluszny kept his starting spot for 2016 before the organization decided to move him into a supporting role. In Jaguars history, he was a one-of-a-kind player.
“I’m happy for him in the sense that he has a conviction over the next phase of his life,” Saleh said. “But I’m also sad to see him retire because there aren’t enough people like him in the NFL who just love ball, who bleed ball, who put in the work he put in every single day to try and maximize everything he had.”