Offensive lineman Olson retires after 10 seasons with Titans
NASHVILLE, Tenn. -- Benji Olson decided to leave college a year early in 1998 because the offensive lineman wasn't sure how long his back would hold up in the NFL.
He announced his retirement Thursday having lasted 10 years with only three interior linemen playing more games than Olson in that stretch.
Not bad for a guy hoping to last maybe five seasons.
"Honestly, I was just shooting to make the team when I got here," he said. "I was just happy these guys took a chance on me, a guy who recently had back surgery.
"There were definitely issues about it. I'm just glad they took a chance on me. I'm glad I was able to deliver and put together a pretty good career," Olson said at a news conference.
Olson started 140 of the 152 games he played, not including nine playoff games, which ranks him fourth behind only Hall of Famer Bruce Matthews (296), Brad Hopkins (194) and Hall of Famer Mike Munchak (159) with this franchise. Nobody has started more games with Tennessee since 1999 than the 6-foot-4, 320-pound Olson.
Munchak called Olson one of the best pros he's ever been around and thanked him for making his job easier as the Titans' offensive line coach.
"That's what he did for 10 years. He knew what to do, and he did it. ... Game after game, year after year for ... 10 years for us. For playing injured the past couple years. Guys didn't realize how bad the back pain was the past couple years. ... We truly appreciate that," Munchak said.
Olson had been one of the last remaining Titans from Tennessee's lone Super Bowl appearance in 2000.
Punter Craig Hentrich is now the only player from the Super Bowl squad who has been with the team since then. The Titans recently re-signed defensive end Jevon Kearse, who was a rookie in the Super Bowl but left as a free agent and played the past four years in Philadelphia.
Coach Jeff Fisher praised Olson as the first player whose career began and ended in Tennessee. He also thanked Olson and his wife for their commitment to playing.
"We knew he was going to be there each and every week," Fisher said.
A fifth-round draft pick out of Washington in 1998, Olson moved into the right guard spot in 1999 and missed only two games through 2006. A groin injury in 2004 ended an 85-game starting streak, and a back injury kept him out of one game in 2006.
Back problems caused Olson to miss four games last season, including the team's 17-6 playoff loss at San Diego, for which he remained at home.
He helped produce seven 1,000-yard rushing seasons by four different running backs and five 3,000-yard passing seasons by Steve McNair, and he blocked for McNair during 2003 when he shared the MVP and for Vince Young in his NFL offensive rookie of the year season in 2006.
Munchak said Olson was the lineman they used to pull and lead block on running plays and screens because of his strength. He cited Olson's block with freeing Eddie George for a 68-yard touchdown run in a 19-16 playoff victory at Indianapolis in January 2000.
Olson's favorite memory was having Matthews jawing with then-Buffalo defensive lineman Bruce Smith after Smith had been yelling at Olson for breaking the leg of a Bills defender in the Titans' playoff win known as the Music City Miracle.
"I just remember thinking how I've got two future Hall of Famers arguing over some stuff I was involved in. This is really great," Olson said.
Olson thanked his wife, Tracy, for helping him put on his shoes Mondays after games and said his back had gotten chronically worse over the past couple years.
"Right now I'm feeling way better than at the end of the season. Obviously, it was hard," Olson said of his decision to retire now.
"As you feel good in the offseason, you start to think maybe one more year, maybe one more year. Coach Fisher knows I could barely get through camp last year. We didn't know if I was going to be able to get through the season because it was acting up so bad," he said.
Copyright 2008 by The Associated Press