Ravens' Marshal Yanda on retiring: 'I wanted to end playing well'

OWINGS MILLS, Md. -- Before a packed auditorium filled with teammates and coaches, Baltimore Ravens Pro Bowl guard Marshal Yanda expressed no regret at Wednesday's retirement press conference, taking satisfaction in that he is walking away from the game that he loves on his own terms.

Much thinner and more talkative than during his decorated 13-year NFL career, Yanda is healthy and coming off a season in which he was a second-team All-Pro.

For some, those would be reasons to continue playing. For Yanda, it was the exact opposite.

"I watched guys as they got older lose a little bit more each year and, by the end, they were almost a liability," Yanda said. "It was like, 'You need to hang it up and be done.' In the back of my mind, I said, 'I never wanted to be like that.'"

Yanda, 35, was selected to his first of eight career Pro Bowls in 2011. Since then, he's tied with Tom Brady and Drew Brees for the most Pro Bowl selections among all offensive players.

He was the anchor of an offensive line that helped the Ravens set an NFL record for rushing yards in a season. He ranked second in the NFL last season in pass block win rate.

General manager Eric DeCosta announced Yanda will be inducted into the Ravens' Ring of Honor. Vice president Ozzie Newsome and coach John Harbaugh said Yanda is destined for the Hall of Fame.

"I wanted to be up here and these guys wanted me back, rather than being at the other end of it, saying, 'I'm happy you're retiring' and they're happily clapping me out of the door," Yanda said. "I wanted to end playing well."

Yanda acknowledged the thought of retirement had been "weighing heavily" on him for the past two years after undergoing two surgeries after the 2017 season. He told family members and close friends before this past season that it would likely be his last. His mind didn't change even after the Ravens set a franchise record with a 14-2 record and were a serious Super Bowl contender.

After the Ravens' upset loss to the Tennessee Titans in the playoffs, Yanda hit the exercise bike, changed his diet and hit the sauna. He has trimmed down to 265 pounds, which is 45 pounds lighter than his playing weight two months ago.

"I feel so much better already, just going up and down the stairs," Yanda said. "I've looked forward to losing weight for a lot of years."

Dressed in a suit with a purple tie, Yanda was more stoic than emotional, spending 25 minutes reading from pages of a prepared speech. He recounted the time he won $600 as a rookie in 2007, when he let teammates taser him in the locker room. He also brought up his most difficult moments, from getting planted on his back by Terrell Suggs on his first day of training camp to getting benched for 11 weeks in 2009.

Yanda persevered and finished as a seven-time All-Pro as well as a Super Bowl champion in 2012.

"As a coach, you could never ask beyond what Marshal did and gave," Harbaugh said. "He embraced every bit of his career and made the most of it. In my opinion, he's a first-ballot Hall of Famer."

Several former and current teammates and coaches attended the ceremony for Yanda, including quarterback Joe Flacco, kicker Justin Tucker and center Matt Skura.

"He did it the right way," Flacco said. "It's awesome to see a guy in the place where he is mentally with his family and with how he played this game. You can tell that he feels really good with the decision he made."

The Ravens now have to move forward and figure out how to replace Yanda, who played in 191 games (the most by an offensive lineman in team history).

"You can't replace a guy like Marshal," DeCosta said. "As great a player as he is, he's a better person and a leader. You hope you hit on someone who at some point can become that guy, but that's like a once-in-every-10-year type of thing."