Buffalo (WKBW) Veteran defensive end Chris Kelsay announced his retirement from the Buffalo Bills on Wednesday. Kelsay was a second-round pick out of Nebraska in 2003. He played in 147 games with the Bills. Kelsay spoke with reporters via conference call on Wednesday night about his decision.
Q: Why did you make this decision?
A: It is something that has been kind of on our minds for a couple months really. My wife and I discussed different options really since the neck injury. Other factors weighed into the overall decision. I just felt like as much as I kind of went back-and-forth on it, I believe if you are thinking about retirement that much you are already retired. I am happy with the decision that we made. I look forward to the next chapter of my life.
Q: You had a terrific career here, but tell me about the frustration of never getting to the playoffs and over that hump. Is that something you will have to deal with as you move on here a little bit?
A: Yeah, obviously. It is something that is frustrating. Something that we did not achieve as a team. Obviously the goal was to make the playoffs and to contend for a championship. In my 10 years here we were unable to do that. It is a tough pill to swallow, but it is one that I am willing to swallow and move on. I think there is more to it in this business. I have learned a lot of lessons. I have met a lot of people and established a lot of relationships that will last a lifetime. So I will not really dwell on that. To move forward and like I said, start the next chapter of my life. I look forward to doing that.
Q: How much did the new changes and the direction the team seems to be going in maybe push you over to the other edge when you were going back-and-forth on whether to retire or not?
A: I cannot say that it did not weigh in, but it was not a huge factor. I think the guys that they brought in, after meeting them last month when I came in to get my neck checked out by Dr. Cappuccino, I was very intrigued by what they had to say and the direction the organization is going. Anytime you have an entire staff overhaul like we have had it is tough to come in and re-prove yourself—do all the things that I have had to do a number of times over the course of my career. I just felt physically and mentally, too, that I was ready to go in a different direction. That is what we decided and there is a sense of relief there so I know that I made the right decision.
Q: Will you be remaining in the Buffalo area at all and what are your impressions of this community as you leave?
A: I love the community of Buffalo and Western New York as a whole. It has meant an awful lot to me and my family. It has been a huge part of our lives. All three of my kids were born in Buffalo. We are very much involved in the community as far as charities and different organizations that we are working with. Buffalo will always have a place in our heart. We will make our primary residence in the state of Nebraska. That is where both of my wife and I are originally from. Most of our family and a lot of our friends still live there. It is definitely a place that we will come and go from. I could not be more pleased with the experience I have had here in terms of communicating with the community and being a part of the different activities and organizations that we have been involved with.
Q: What do you say to the fans who have been supportive during the window of time you have played for the Bills but you guys never got it done?
A: I think just to continue to believe and have hope. Every year I came in with the sense of excitement and optimism for each new year. Unfortunately it did not pan out for our teams over the last 10 years. The Buffalo Bills fans are the true fans—there is nothing like them. I think they need to just continue to support the organization. We are going to turn the corner. It is just a matter of time. Buddy (Nix), Russ (Brandon), Coach Marrone and the staff that they have put together here—I see good things in the near future for the Buffalo Bills. For the downtimes, there are good times. Sometimes you just have to be patient. Our fans have definitely been patient for a long time. I understand that. They are due. I think they have the right people in here. Add a few more pieces to the puzzle through the draft, free agency and they are headed in the right direction.
Q: How much did your health and the neck injury weigh into the decision? Did the team at any time during this process ever ask you to consider taking a pay cut?
A: Well first of all the neck obviously played into my decision even though it was a ligament issue and not a structural issue. It is still your neck. Obviously with three young kids and hopefully many more years ahead of me, I did not want to leave the game broke down. That definitely played into it. It was not the only factor. As far as an offer to restructure my contract, that was never even brought up. I flew in this afternoon and sat down with Buddy and we discussed the feelings that I was having. We came to the resolution that I was going to retire a Buffalo Bill. I feel very honored and blessed to have that opportunity. I always said from Day One when Mr. Wilson drafted me in 2003 that I wanted to end my career a Buffalo Bill. That came to fruition today and I feel very blessed to have that opportunity.
Q: How much did it play into the factor of a new regime? A new defensive coordinator, probably a new defensive scheme and a new head coach—how much did that all play into the decision?
A: Like I said, it definitely played a role in it but it was not a deciding factor. It is always tough to have to come in and reestablish yourself. Earn the respect, the trust and confidence of your coaching staff. Obviously that is something I have had to do in prior years. It’s something that I am proud to say that I was able to do. It weighs into it. A whole new system. A whole new scheme. Kind of a hybrid defense; 4-3, 3-4 mix. There is no question that I feel like I could play in it, but at the same time I am just very happy with where I am at and looking forward to retirement.
Q: You are not going to pull a (Aaron) Schobel on us and reconsider in August are you?
A: No. There is no way I am doing that.
Q: Is the neck better now? Is that all the way back or is there still a little a little more rehab with that? How is that going?
A: There is no rehab. I came in last month and saw Andy Cappuccino. He cleared me to resume all normal activities. I have been working out and staying in shape. That is something that I will continue to do. I have always been kind of a gym rat. I like to work out and I enjoy it. I am not having any issue with that right now.
Q: Will you miss the camaraderie and what kept you coming back in the past—your relationship with DT Kyle Williams and things like that?
A: Yeah. You establish a lot of great relationships in this league and when you are with an organization for as long as I have been, obviously you see a lot of guys come and go. You get close to certain guys and Kyle (Williams) is one. Aaron Schobel, playing with him for seven years. Jairus Byrd. The list goes on and on. Every single guy I played with was a great guy. I enjoyed every single day coming in and working with them. That is something I will always carry with me. I will stay in touch with a number of these guys.
Q: Do you have plans to stay in the game in any way either as a player, scout or front office? Do you have those types of aspirations?
A: I do not know. When football has been such a big part of my life for so long, it would be hard for me I think to just get out of it completely. However for the next year or so I am just going to enjoy some time with my wife, my kids and relax a little bit. You lose so much of that. Pressure time, especially when the kids are young. Traveling and the off-season back-and-forth to workouts. Then once the season kicks off we are gone almost every other weekend on road trips. You miss out on a lot of time with them. I am really going to cherish that and just kind of relish the opportunity that I have now with the time that has been given to me.
Q: What plans would the Bills have had for you in terms of competing in 2013?
A: We never really got to that point to be honest with you. When I sat down with Buddy, I told him basically the thought process that my wife and I had gone through over the course of the last couple months and really even into the end of last season. It never really came to that. We were kind of on the same page I think when I told him that I wanted to retire a Buffalo Bill. I think Buddy was happy for me and happy for my family. That is really as far as it went.
Q: The timing then—is that to allow the team to do what it needs to do to replace you as far as with free agency looming and the draft? Is it just to give time to put the team in the best possible position is why you are doing it now?
A: Yeah, I just felt like now is the right time to do it with the draft coming up and free agency starting here right around the corner. You do not want to drag anything out too long. Like I said, it has been weighing heavy on my heart for a while. I just looked at it as good an opportunity and time to do it as any.