It was more a statement of resignation than retirement, but former Broncos running back Terrell Davis acknowledged Wednesday night that his playing career is all but over.
Davis, who made his remarks during an appearance on the NFL Network, has yet to formally file retirement papers with the NFL and declined to say when he would do so.
"You can never get football out of your system and, until I officially retire, there might be some small glimpse of hope that one day I might wake up and say I want to play again," Davis said. "But until that day, I'm mentally kind of saying that it's over."
The leading rusher in franchise history, Davis has not played since 2001 and the 31-year-old continues to rehabilitate from his latest knee surgery. Davis spent the entire 2002 season on injured reserve, attempted a comeback this summer, but could not pass a physical examination.
Davis was released but team officials told him that, if he sufficiently recovered to a point where he believed he wanted to attempt another comeback, he would be welcomed back. But based on his statements Wednesday, the probability of it seems remote at best.
In his first four seasons in the league, Davis averaged 335.8 carries, 1,603 yards and 14 touchdowns, leading the Broncos to a pair of Super Bowl championships and, in 1998, became one of only four players in NFL history to rush for 2,000 yards. But then he was beset by knee injuries and, over the ensuing four years, appeared in only 17 games.
During that stretch, Davis totaled only 312 attempts, 1,194 yards and four touchdowns.
Davis still suffers from a chronic knee condition. He underwent controversial "microfracture" surgery within the past year and is still recovering. At his age, he said, he would probably be relegated to a reserve role if he ever returned, allowing that it wouldn't appeal to him.
"When you are the oldest guy in the locker room," Davis said, "you start to realize that the game is really not an old man's game. It's for younger guys. I'm 31 now, and you look at Clinton Portis, and he's 22. I can't go out there and compete like I used to. ... If I go back, I want to be able to carry the ball 25 times a game. And I know I physically could not do that right now."
Len Pasquarelli is a senior writer for ESPN.com.