Emotional Chris Snee lets his guard down on retirement day
Bob GlauberBob Glauber
Glauber has been Newsday's national football columnist since 1992. He
Chris Snee was hoping to pull a Michael Strahan: That perfect retirement scenario in which he walks off the field and into his NFL sunset holding the Vince Lombardi Trophy aloft and being showered with confetti after one more Super Bowl championship run.
But like the majority of professional athletes, even the ones who enjoy the sort of long and distinguished career that Snee had for a decade with the Giants, it did not end the way he had wished.
In fact, the last time Snee walked off a field after a game, it was the worst beating he had ever endured. The Giants were humiliated by the Panthers, 38-0, and Snee knew he couldn't go on after suffering through hip and elbow problems that shut his season down. And ultimately shut his career down, too.
The 32-year-old guard bid a tearful farewell to the Giants and the NFL Monday, barely getting the words out during a minute's worth of halting sentences announcing the end of his comeback attempt.
"It's a bittersweet day," Snee began, needing nearly 20 seconds to compose himself, "but, uh, one I really had no choice in. It's no secret, but I'm going to retire . . . It's been a great 10 years. I'm thankful for the memories and for the opportunity to come back this spring and try to improve on the memory I had from last year. But it wasn't going to happen, so I had to admit that I can no longer play."
No, Snee didn't get his Strahan moment of retirement bliss. But there was closure nonetheless, a chance to come to grips with the fact that he no longer could take the punishment handed out in the NFL's trenches.
He performed there so admirably with a determination that powered the two championship teams he was a part of in 2007 and 2011, and he wanted to get "one more game" to erase the memory of that woeful game against the Panthers. In the end, he didn't get that chance. But he did take a measure of solace.
When I asked if that final game would haunt him because he couldn't play again, or whether he could let it go, Snee said he would be at peace. Why? Because the Giants gave him the chance to answer his own doubts.
"If they hadn't," he said, referring to the possibility of being released in the offseason, "I would probably still be wondering what if? Could I still play? Now I know the answer."
He knows that surgical procedures on both hips and an elbow won't allow him to perform at the level he was used to, especially during the years when he was considered among the NFL's best linemen. He didn't want to be the one preventing his team from winning.
Snee reflected on a game against the Cowboys midway through his rookie season in 2004, when he was taken to school by Cowboys defensive tackle La'Roi Glover.
"That feeling I had when [Glover] handed it to me, there's nothing worse than when you're in film study the next day and you're the guy who's holding the team back," he said. "That's not a good feeling. That's kind of why I'm standing up here now, because I didn't want to be that guy."
Snee knew. His body was telling him it was time. Even if it wasn't the perfect time.
"At least he's walking out on his own terms," Giants co-owner John Mara said. "Not a lot of guys get to do that. I'm happy that he was able to make this decision for himself."
It was not an easy decision. His tears and those of his wife and two of his three sons told you just how hard it was on all of them.
But it didn't take Snee long to see where the next part of his life will take him. He walked over to his wife, Kate, daughter of Giants coach Tom Coughlin, and the two boys for a long and touching family hug.
A storybook ending of his own.