Ex-Steelers LB Worilds joins Locker, Willis in announcing early retirement

Former Steelers linebacker Jason Worilds announced his retirement at 27 on Tuesday, a surprising finish to the opening day of free agency, which was as noteworthy for the players who quit teams as the ones who changed teams.

Worilds, a second-round pick in the 2010 draft, is a free agent and was expected to land a deal after registering 7.5 sacks last season for Pittsburgh.

Earlier Tuesday, Tennessee Titans Jake Locker announced his retirement after four seasons in the NFL. He’s just 26.

"I am retiring from football after much reflection and discussion with my family. I will always be grateful for having had the opportunity to realize my childhood dream of playing in the NFL and for the lifelong relationships I developed because of that experience," Locker said in statement.

"Football has always played a pivotal role in my life and I love the game, but I no longer have the burning desire necessary to play the game for a living; to continue to do so would be unfair to the next organization with whom I would eventually sign. I realize this decision is surprising to many, but I know in my heart that it is the right decision and I look forward to spending more time with my family and pursuing other interests."

Locker never lived up to expectations after being selected No. 8 in the 2011 draft. He battled injuries throughout his career, never playing a full NFL season.

He was named the Titans’ starting quarterback to start the 2014 season but eventually was benched in favor of third-string quarterback Zach Mettenberger. Locker was eventually placed on injured reserve in December. In 2013, Locker dislocated a hip and played just seven games.

Locker walks away from the game with a career completion percentage of 57.5 along with 27 touchdown passes and 22 interceptions.

San Francisco 49ers linebacker Patrick Willis also announced his retirement Tuesday, blaming foot injuries and saying "I no longer have [it] in these feet to give you guys that kind of ‘Wow.’" He’s 30.

The NFL Defensive Rookie of the Year in 2007 after being drafted 11th overall out of Mississippi, Willis started 112 games and had 950 tackles with 20.5 sacks in eight seasons. Willis also had eight interceptions — two returned for touchdowns — 16 forced fumbles, five fumble recoveries and 53 passes defensed. He was named to seven Pro Bowls and an All-Pro five times.

But like Locker and Worilds, he was happy to retire on his own terms.

"In my head, I’m already a Hall of Famer," Willis told The Associated Press. "I am leaving this with closure, saying that I am happy today, more happy today than I was the day I was drafted. That says something to me."

— The Associated Press contributed to this report.