Testaverde to retire after Panthers' game at Tampa Bay

Updated: December 29, 2007, 9:25 PM ET
Associated Press

CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- After 21 seasons, Vinny Testaverde has had enough.

The 44-year-old quarterback said Saturday that he'll retire after Carolina's season finale at Tampa Bay on Sunday.

Vinny Testaverde

Testaverde

"I just feel like it's time," Testaverde told The Associated Press before boarding the team bus for the airport. "Obviously at 44 it does get a little bit tougher as the weeks go by. I'm glad I'm able to do it on my own terms and walk away from the game not only healthy, but to experience some of the things I've been through."

Testaverde was out of the league until the Panthers, desperate for quarterback help after injuries to Jake Delhomme and David Carr, signed him on Oct. 10. Four days and only three practices later, Testaverde became the oldest starting QB to win a game when he led the Panthers to a victory at Arizona.

"It's going to be, for me, one of my special moments in the NFL," Testaverde said. "To come in with three days of preparation and go out and help a team win a football game and contribute, I'm proud of the fact I was able to do that."

Testaverde started five more games for Carolina and completed 94 of 172 passes for 952 yards, five touchdowns and six interceptions.

But his body wore down late in the season, and he was sidelined by back pain and a right Achilles tendon injury that kept him out of games and practices the past month.

Testaverde said he started contemplating retirement several weeks ago.

"You want to be able to go out there and perform the way you think you can," Testaverde said. "When you have some things that hinder you from doing that, it makes it tougher."

Testaverde's final game will come where his pro career started.

The 1986 Heisman Trophy winner at Miami, Testaverde was the No. 1 overall pick by Tampa Bay in the 1987 draft. He got off to rocky start, throwing 13 touchdown passes and 35 interceptions in his second season with the Buccaneers, his first as the full-time starter.

Testaverde weathered the criticism for three more seasons before moving to Cleveland. After the franchise moved to Baltimore, Testaverde made his first Pro Bowl in 1996.

Testaverde made the Pro Bowl two years later with the New York Jets, when he had 29 touchdown passes and only seven interceptions. Late in his career he played with Dallas and New England.

Testaverde ranks sixth in the league for career attempts (6,701), completions (3,787) and yards passing (45,233). Testaverde has thrown 275 touchdown passes and 267 interceptions.

Testaverde also holds the NFL record by throwing at least one touchdown pass in 21 straight seasons.

"I think my years in Tampa Bay have taught me a lot, not only about football, but about life," Testaverde said. "It kind of helped me grow a tough skin. I went through some tough times as a professional athlete there, but it's a great place, a great town. It's come full circle."

Testaverde also plans to move his family from Long Island in New York to Tampa early next year. While he said he's not interested in coaching, he would like to get involved working with athletes on conditioning and weightlifting. Testaverde has credited his longevity to a rigorous workout program

Testaverde said he is healthy enough to play against the Buccaneers, if called on. He'll likely be the No. 2 quarterback for Carolina (6-9) behind undrafted rookie Matt Moore, who took over for the banged up Testaverde three games ago.

"It was a privilege to work with Vinny this season," Panthers coach John Fox said in a statement. "He not only helped us on the field, but also in the locker room, where his work ethic was a great example for our players."

Testaverde said he told the team of his decision Saturday morning. He also gave Fox, under heavy criticism for a second straight season out of the playoffs, a strong endorsement.

"This team is a talented football team. What's going to make the difference for them next year is what they do in the offseason to prepare themselves," Testaverde said. "They'll try to bring in some pieces they feel they need, but I think they have a great nucleus and they're heading in the right direction.

"And coach Fox is the guy to do it for them, too."


Copyright 2007 by The Associated Press