SAN FRANCISCO — Saying that he leaves the game with “very few regrets,” former Giants defensive end Justin Tuck announced his retirement Monday. Tuck played 11 NFL seasons, won two Super Bowls with the Giants, and played the last two years of his career with the Raiders.
Tuck told ESPN Radio in New York that he had been praying about the pending decision all offseason.
“I had a dream about it and I woke up and the answer was there,” he said. “I was stressing about it. Once I nailed down that I was going to retire, it was a weight off my shoulders. I knew it was the right decision.”
Tuck finishes his NFL career with 353 tackles, 66 1/2 career sacks — with all but six coming with the Giants — and 20 forced fumbles. He had 5 1/2 sacks in 10 playoff games, including two each in Super Bowls XLII and XLVI against the Patriots.
He was not named MVP in either of the Giants’ Super Bowl victories, but easily could have been in both of them.
Tuck, who spent most of the 2015 season on injured reserve with a torn pectoral muscle, said it was not the physical strains of the game that led him to his decision.
“My body is fine,” he said in the radio interview. “My body is literally telling me to play right now. It was more mental, about preparing for another offseason, preparing for the training and the dedication that we players do. Football has made me an absentee father, it’s made me an absentee husband . . . I’m ready for something different, to enjoy my family and enjoy something else.
“I always said I didn’t want to stay too long and it’s the right time.”
Tuck is the latest of the key contributors to the two most recent Giants Super Bowl wins to step away from the game. In recent years, Osi Umenyiora, David Diehl and Chris Snee have retired. And, of course, in January Tom Coughlin stepped down as coach of the team.
Tuck noted there were some similarities to his and Coughlin’s decisions.
“I think coach Coughlin agrees with the idea that it was his time and he had a great run and he doesn’t want anyone to feel sorry for him, even though we do,” Tuck said. “He was the catalyst. He was the guy who figured out a way to bring us all together and make us the players that we were.”
Tuck, 32, said he will keep tabs on his body and monitor it for signs of any effects of playing football for so long. Many former NFL players have had issues with memory loss and other discomforts and quite a few — including one of Tuck’s teammates, former Giants safety Tyler Sash — tested positive for the degenerative brain disease CTE in posthumous examinations.
“In 2005 when I got drafted, and even before that, I knew what I was signing myself up for,” Tuck said. “I knew it was a violent game, I knew it was a game that people get injured in. I didn’t necessarily know about the CTE stuff, but I knew it’s a game where we put our bodies at risk and I signed off on it.”
He said he will continue routine blood tests and focus on his nutrition to help combat issues that normally encroach on retired players.
“The smart thing for me to do is whatever I can do to combat that and take care of my body,” he said.
As for his career, many Giants fans will have a flood of memories of Tuck sacking Tom Brady in Super Bowls or other great moments from a career that will likely put him in the team’s Ring of Honor very shortly. But Tuck said he does not walk away from his career with any specific memory in mind.
“For me, it’s not one play, it’s not one game, it’s not even the Super Bowl,” he said. “The thing I remember the most is the camaraderie in the locker room, the friendships with teammates. I rarely call them teammates because they are brothers. We had such a great run with a great group of guys. I’ve never been a guy to hang on to a play or a game. Obviously, we had some great ones, but it’ll always be the relationships I remember.”