Big-hitter Lynch hanging it up
37-year-old was nine-time Pro Bowler
By Pat Graham
ENGLEWOOD, Colo. (AP) — Big-hitting safety John Lynch’s crunching collisions are over.
Lynch has decided to retire, officially ending his career with a news conference Monday in Tampa, Fla.
The 37-year-old was a nine-time Pro Bowler for Denver and Tampa Bay, finishing with 1,277 tackles, 100 pass breakups and 26 interceptions in 224 regular-season games.
He departed Denver on good terms in July after being bumped from his starting role and signed with the Patriots. He was cut two weeks later and has been out of the game since.
"Just everything you’d want in a player," Broncos coach Mike Shanahan said Friday after hearing about Lynch’s retirement. "He set an example on how to be a pro."
Lynch made it known that there was a price to pay for coming over the middle — a painful pounding.
"He made a name for himself with (big hits)," said safety Marlon McCree, whose emergence in Denver eventually led to Lynch bolting the Broncos. "That’s the type of player he was."
Lynch played 11 years in Tampa Bay, winning a Super Bowl with the Buccaneers during the 2002 season. But he struggled with neck injuries in his final season there and eventually needed surgery to remove bone spurs.
The Bucs said goodbye, partly thinking his career was complete.
Lynch landed in Denver before the ’04 season. He made four more Pro Bowl squads and guided the Broncos into the AFC championship game, losing to the eventual Super Bowl champion Pittsburgh Steelers.
"John was one of the most intense players I have ever played with," cornerback Champ Bailey said. "It was an honor and a pleasure to play four years with John Lynch. I learned a lot from him."
Lynch set the tone for the defense with his jarring hits.
"There was nothing better than for John to get that first big hit early," Broncos defensive end Ebenezer Ekuban said. "The whole defense rallied around that. It got everybody hyped up, everybody ready to go."
Lynch’s decline in playing time began last season as he started to come off the field on passing downs. Still, he played every snap over the last three games, and Broncos owner Pat Bowlen talked him into signing a cut-rate deal in the offseason.
As practices wore on, Lynch became disappointed with the amount of time he was receiving. He asked the team to let him explore other options.
The Broncos did just that, understanding his choice.
"You want them to be happy with how they finish things off," receiver Brandon Stokley said. "You want what’s best for him. He was a great player, great teammate and somebody the NFL will miss."
Not receivers, though.
Stokley took a couple of Lynch’s licks while playing for Indianapolis. Lynch’s blows hurt. A lot.
"He was somebody you always knew where he was," Stokley said. "He brought it every play."
McCree thanks the likes of Lynch for his pocketbook. He says Lynch, Philadelphia’s Brian Dawkins and others are the reason hard-hitting safeties are well compensated.
"I feel like every safety that plays this game is indebted to him," McCree said. "The safeties they are drafting now, they’re drafting to model a guy like John Lynch."
The prototypical safety is someone who seeks out contact — just like Lynch.
He’s made numerous rib-rattling hits, like knocking Colts tight end Dallas Clark silly in the final game of the regular season in ’04. He drew a hefty fine for that one.
Then again, he’s drawn quite a few fines throughout his playing days.
Lynch has also been featured in his fair share of videos promoting fierce hits. His collisions are the stamp on his career.
"Those big hits — that’s a good thing to be known for," Ekuban said. "We all looked for him to make that big, big hit early in the game, so we knew we were coming to play."