JACKSONVILLE, Fla. — Paul Posluszny left the game the same way he played — with the utmost class.
The veteran middle linebacker retired Tuesday after 11 NFL seasons with Buffalo and Jacksonville, calling it quits because he can "no longer compete at a level that I find acceptable."
Posluszny delivered the news in a heartfelt letter that thanked family members, former coaches at every level and teammates past and present.
"With much sadness but without regret, I realize that I am no longer able to adhere to the unwavering standard of excellence that professional football demands," Posluszny wrote. "I say this with a heavy heart: I am retiring from the NFL. I love the game of football so much, and I know there is truly only one acceptable way to play. Knowing I can no longer compete at a level that I find acceptable, I have chosen to end my football career.
"This decision is mine alone, and although I know this will not bring me happiness, it is the right and honourable action to take at this time in my life."
The Pennsylvania native and Penn State graduate was an old-school linebacker, a player who liked tackling way more than talking. He had a chiseled chest, a barely noticeable neck and scars up and down his body.
Posluszny started his career in Buffalo before playing the final seven years in Jacksonville. He led the Jaguars in tackles five times. His 973 career stops trail only Daryl Smith (1,089) in Jacksonville’s record book.
"I believe everyone should thank Paul for a career representing everything to love about the NFL and the game of football," team owner Shad Khan said in a statement. "Paul competed hard and relentlessly, but always represented his community with honour and class, as we saw during his years here with the Jaguars."
The 33-year-old Posluszny was scheduled to become an unrestricted free agent Wednesday. With Jacksonville unlikely to re-sign him following the emergence of Myles Jack, Posluszny opted to walk away for good.
He did so with an elegant letter, planning to "spend the rest of eternity" trying to repay his wife for everything she has done for him and promising to do his best to step up the challenge of "dance class and dollhouses" with his two daughters.
He thanked teachers and coaches at Hopewell High in Western Pennsylvania. He thanked Penn State, including late coach Joe Paterno for providing him "with a priceless education and wonderful memories." He thanked the Bills, including coach Marv Levy and late owner Ralph Wilson, "for allowing me to be a small part of that storied franchise and amazing city."
He also thanked Jaguars coach Doug Marrone and top executive Tom Coughlin "for bringing us out of the darkness and back into the light, and for demanding a non-negotiable standard of excellence that will propel the Jacksonville Jaguars forward for years to come. I am excited to watch and cheer for you."
Posluszny made one Pro Bowl (2013) and was part of one winning seasons (2017). He also made the playoffs for the first time in his career last season and finished one victory shy of the Super Bowl.
"These last two or three years, I promise you I saw him smile more than I did before — even in pictures," fellow Jaguars linebacker Telvin Smith said. "I know he went through another phase in life having his daughters. That opened him up in a different way. I saw that, and it gave him these last two or three years to go battle with us."