MINNEAPOLIS — Minnesota Vikings right tackle Phil Loadholt has decided to retire from the NFL after seven seasons, halting his comeback from injury because of a recent setback.
The Vikings placed Loadholt on the reserve/retired list Monday, four days before the team’s first practice of training camp.
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Loadholt, a second-round draft pick by the Vikings out of Oklahoma in 2009, missed the 2015 season because of a torn Achilles tendon on his left foot. He also missed the last five games of the 2014 season because of a torn pectoral muscle.
Loadholt took a pay cut to return for the final year of his contract and went through spring workouts and minicamp without obvious problem, but he said Monday that he suffered a left leg injury in the past few weeks that steered him toward the end of his career.
"I just figured that my body was telling me that it was time for me to go ahead and transition out of the game," Loadholt said, adding: "Basically I couldn’t go into training camp with it like that."
Prior to those injuries, the 6-foot-8, 345-pound Loadholt sat out only twice over the first 93 games of his career including the playoffs. He was a starter from his rookie year on. His 89 regular-season starts are ninth in Vikings history for an offensive tackle.
Speaking on a conference call with reporters, Loadholt fondly recalled the 2009 season when the Vikings advanced to the NFC championship game behind quarterback Brett Favre and 2012 when Adrian Peterson came within 9 yards of breaking the league’s all-time single-season rushing record.
"I’ll miss that crowd roar when Adrian breaks an 80-yard run," Loadholt said, adding: "When you feel him running up your back and you flatten somebody and you just see them looking at Adrian’s feet going down, that’s always the best memories right there."
Now a full-time family man and a former NFL player, Loadholt said he wasn’t sure how he’d spend his time, other than to begin by taking his children to Minnesota State University in Mankato to watch his friends practice and eat a few blocks away at training camp fixture Jake’s Stadium Pizza. He’d like to stay involved in the sport, specifically to encourage and mentor youth learning to play.
"This will be the first fall in about 23 years that I’m not getting ready for a season so it’s going to be rough," Loadholt said. "I mean, it’s been rough the last couple years, but I’m at peace with my decision and I know that I’d rather be out there at 100 percent than being not healthy and ready to roll."
Loadholt was facing an uphill fight to make the team, given his age, his recent health trouble and the depth chart. Newcomer Andre Smith and incumbent T.J. Clemmings will compete for the starting spot at right tackle.
Vikings right guard Brandon Fusco, who lined up next to Loadholt for three seasons, declared this on Twitter a "sad day" in posting his well wishes for a now-former teammate.
"Phil is my guy. Great football player but (an) even better person. Gonna miss the big homie," Fusco tweeted.