It’s official: Dan Connolly is going out on top.
The free-agent offensive lineman announced he will retire in an interview with ESPN.com’s Mike Reiss on Thursday morning. Connolly, who spent eight seasons with the New England Patriots from 2007 to 2014 and became a free agent in March, said finally winning a Super Bowl factored into his decision to hang ’em up.
“It definitely played a part in it; helped me sleep better,” Connolly told Reiss. “I’m more at ease with the decision.”
Connolly played in 13 regular-season games last season and started Super Bowl XLIX at left guard. The 32-year-old believes he could play a few more years in the NFL but said concerns about health ultimately convinced him to leave the game. Connolly was diagnosed with four concussions during his NFL career and suffered a fifth during high school.
“It’s important to me to leave the game healthy,” he said. “I’m able to be here for my kids and walk away on my own terms. I feel like I got everything I could out of football in playing 10 years, winning a Super Bowl, and playing alongside some truly great players.”
Connolly went undrafted out of Southeast Missouri State in 2005 but signed with the Jacksonville Jaguars that season. He signed with the Patriots in 2007 and got his break in 2010, when he started 13 games at guard while filling in for Logan Mankins and Stephen Neal.
Connolly’s leadership will be difficult to replace — he was named one of the team’s six captains in 2014 — and veteran linemen Nate Solder, Sebastian Vollmer and Ryan Wendell will have to fill that void in his absence.
Thumbnail photo via Geoff Burke/USA TODAY Sports Images