Jason Kelce on why he retired — and touching reason he was taped up for ceremony

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There was one thing different about the early stages of this offseason that made Jason Kelce realize that it was time to retire.

In the most recent episode of the “New Heights” podcast, the former Philadelphia Eagles star said that he didn’t go through his usual routine of asking other former NFL players when they knew it was time to step away from the game. Kelce sensed his time had come, largely due to lingering injuries. 

“The physical portion is at a point that it’s not a desire to continue to do,” he explained. “The reality was, it was more firm than it’s ever been this year that I just don’t think physically, I can compete at the level I want to anymore, and really compete the way I want to. My elbow, a little of my knees, it’s just gotten to the point where the deterioration and the recovery from that deterioration hasn’t really manifested on game day yet, but I know it’s going to start doing that. I’m hard on myself, and if I go out there and I’m not the player I want to be, it will crush me. 

“I feel very confident in the decision that I made. I know that it’s time. I had a really good run.”

Still, Kelce admitted that the timing of his decision to leave the game wasn’t ideal. After losing in the Super Bowl last February, the Eagles looked prime to make another Super Bowl run this past season, starting 10-1 before losing five of their final six games and losing in the first round of the playoffs. 

Philadelphia Eagles’ Jason Kelce announces retirement from NFL – Dave Helman reacts

Kelce said he was “upset” and “disappointed” that his final season happened to be when the Eagles likely had “the biggest collapse in the history of the organization.” 

“I truly think the Eagles are going to ball out next year. There’s still a tremendous amount of talent there,” Kelce said. “They hired two really good coaches that are going to be able to offer a new perspective and look at things with a fresh lens. I think Jalen Hurts is a tremendous quarterback. I know it wasn’t a good end of the year for him, or for anybody on offense, but there’s still so many pieces. 

“I just really think there’s going to be one hell of a bounce back from the Philadelphia Eagles next year. It really pains me — I’ll be a part of it in some way, I’m still going to go down to the facilities and help out in any way that I can — but I’m also going to do other things, and I’m not going to be on the field doing it with those guys.”

Why did the Eagles collapse?

Kelce’s 40-minute-long retirement speech was met with rave reviews, with his brother declaring “the speech was unbelievable.” Kelce said that he gave the first draft of his speech to a member of the Eagles’ media department and his wife, Kylie. He also got permission from Nick Foles’ wife to share an explicit nickname for the former Eagles quarterback.

In addition to the emotional speech, Kelce’s attire for the press conference was a bit unusual for a retirement announcement, as he opted to wear an Eagles tank top at the podium. Kelce noted that the shirt was “a part of this journey for me,” remarking how he wore it in certain practices and moments of his career. 

Related: A real Philly Special: Jason Kelce retires an icon in one of sports’ toughest cities

Kelce also wore flip-flops because he wanted longtime Eagles trainer Joe O’Pella to give treatment to his ankle one last time. O’Pella missed the entirety of the Eagles’ 2023 season due to cancer treatments, so Kelce asked him to be a part of Monday’s ceremony, which the trainer shared in an Instagram post. 

“Thankfully, he’s in remission,” Kelce said of O’Pella. “They don’t have any signs of it. I still think they’re going to do an operation to really make sure, but he’s looking good. He wasn’t able to tape me for any of the games this year and he’s taped my ankles for my whole career. So, he taped my ankles for the press conference one last time. I had ankle tape on with sandals. That’s what went into the attire.”

As for what’s next, Kelce didn’t say exactly. However, he hinted at a possible media career.

“I’ve really only played football my whole life,” Kelce said. “So, we’ve got to try and figure something else out. Luckily, with this podcast and all of our fans and everybody, there’s some opportunities now. And that’s great, but at the end of the day, it’s still a new chapter. I’m incredibly excited about what could happen and also nervous about what life is going to look like now.”


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