"This is the first year i've ever really thought about retiring," the 38-year-old Green, the oldest player ever to start at cornerback in the NFL, said Wednesday. "I'm not saying I'm going to retire. I don't know when that'll happen."
Hearing such words from Green brings a sobering reality to the Redskins' 1-7 record. The 16-year veteran is still lightning fast and is having another great season -- the only starter who can say that -- and could be headed toward his eighth Pro Bowl. When the team was 0-6, he talked in typical Green fashion about finishing 10-6. But, as 0-7 approached in the second half of a 41-7 loss to Minnesota, he was in tears.
"It does get kind of tough when you're losing over and over and over," Green said. "I'm a human being. I know a lot of people think I'm Superman. This is me. I don't have a cape. You do really start to contemplate (retirement) because it wears on you, because you're human. It wears on you mentally. It really hasn't worn on me physically -- I can still run and cover and all that stuff -- but it does start to wear down on you."
Green is serious as he speaks, but not somber. Somber isn't his game. After all, this is a man who signed an improbable five-year contract at the age of 37, then showed up with his family at the press conference wearing T-shirts that proclaimed: "Darrell Green, Pro Bowl 2000."
This is a man who drove six-hour round trips to Lawrenceville, Va., during the spring to finish the credits he neeed to get his long-overdue college diploma. Why? Because, for all these years, he's had a nagging feeling of hypocrisy for preaching the value of education to young kids while his own schooling remained incomplete.
| After 16 seasons, seven Pro Bowls and two Super Bowl championships, Darrell Green says this 1-7 season has him thinking retirement. (AP) |
And this is a man who arrived home Friday night from a charity event at the Ronald McDonald House, found his 9-year-old son violently ill, took him to the hospital and stayed up all night with him - yet still showed up Saturday morning for team meetings and practice. This was the same practice Michael Westbrook missed, claiming sickness, resulting in a one-game benching for the receiver and a $4,000 fine.
"He definitely means a lot emotionally to this team," guard Joe Patton said. "You know you're going to be able to fight with Darrell Green. He's the oldest guy on this team, and he's still doing his thing. He's sacrificing his body, which is not much of a body. He's a leader, in every way possible."
During the losing streak, accusations of players giving up on the field were rife at Redskin Park. Green says his brain can't even begin to register that possibility. Asked why the Redskins have been disappointing, he searches for answers, at one point bemoaning the behavior of younger players who may have received too much, too soon.
"The ability or the inability to manage your own personal life can affect you as far as being a part of a team," Green said. "It can carry over. As much as this is a game, it's also a business, and it takes a strong mental and physical commitment. ... Here you have more of a young team, with less reins on their own lives, and I think that can start to affect a player on the field."
Green is almost old enough to be the father of some of his teammates, creating a generation gap that can be tough to bridge as a leader. All he can do is keep being Darrell Green and hope it rubs off.
"I think the thing that makes it easier for me is that whether we're winning or losing, my objective has never changed," Green said. "I'm always trying to play to be the best. Every play, I want to beat this guy, be a winner. So even before I knew what we were going to be as a team, that was my plan. That's how you become a pro."
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