KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) Veteran offensive lineman Ryan Lilja, who helped block for Peyton Manning during the Colts’ Super Bowl-winning 2006 season, announced his retirement Monday.
Lilja said he was going to “hang it up” after the Kansas City Chiefs finished a 2-14 season with a 38-3 loss to the Denver Broncos on Sunday. Lilja had played guard his entire career until injuries along the Chiefs’ line forced him to play center the majority of this season.
“I’m ready to shut it down and move on with my life,” said Lilja, who grew up in Kansas City and starred for Kansas State before signing with the Chiefs as an undrafted free agent in 2004.
Undersized by NFL standards, the 6-foot-2, 285-pound Lilja was waived by the Chiefs and quickly claimed by Indianapolis, where he became one of Manning’s most trusted blockers. He played in 11 games the year the Colts beat the Chicago Bears in the Super Bowl.
He returned to Kansas City three years ago, and would have become a free agent this offseason.
“I think I’m done,” Lilja said while cleaning out his locker Monday. “I’ve made a ton of dynamite relationships, but I think it’s time I shut it down.”
The 31-year-old Lilja said he had a feeling before the season that this would be his last, and a series of injuries – including a nagging back injury that forced him to miss a game – served to reassure him that walking away was in his best interest.
He wound up starting 104 of 111 career games over eight seasons.
“Physically, you kind of hit a wall,” said Lilja, who started 104 of 111 games over eight seasons. “Your body tells you to start thinking about it.”
Lilja had never played center until this year, when a season-ending injury to Rodney Hudson moved him to the middle of the Chiefs’ patchwork offensive line. Lilja had his struggles, too, with several botched snaps and a few cases of costly miscommunication.
Still, his willingness to take on a new role impressed his teammates.
“I can’t say enough about how professional he is,” right tackle Eric Winston said. “This organization is going to miss him and the guys in the locker room are going to miss him.”