DAVIE, Fla. - Linebacker Jason Taylor walked across the locker room brushing his teeth, then ducked into the equipment room to rinse and spit. Minutes later he tried to muster a smile for a cluster of TV cameras.
It was time to call it quits.
The NFL's active sacks leader said he'll retire after this season, his 15th in the NFL and his 13th with the Miami Dolphins. Taylor has contemplated retirement in years past only to be lured back, but now he insists his mind's made up.
"Sunday's my last game," he said. "I might even change my cell phone number so they can't reach me."
The 37-year-old Taylor, who made the announcement following practice Wednesday, ranks sixth all-time with 139½ sacks. He has six fumble returns for touchdowns, an NFL record.
"His contributions on the field as one of the greatest players in team history will be remembered by Dolphins fans for years to come," owner Stephen Ross said in a statement. "He will always remain an integral part of the Dolphin family."
Taylor has had three stints with the Dolphins, who drafted him in the third round in 1997. He also played for the Redskins in 2008 and the Jets in 2010.
"In my opinion, that's a no-brainer Hall of Fame player," Jets coach Rex Ryan said. "He was a phenomenal teammate here. We only had him the one year, yet he affected the team so positively. I'm proud that I had a chance to coach him."
"If there was one regret I have as an athlete, it's that I didn't get a chance to bring a championship to Miami," he said.
Taylor said his wife was surprised he's hanging it up. But the Dolphins (5-10) are nearing the end of another disappointing season and about to embark on a coaching search, which influenced his decision.
"The last few weeks I thought about it more," he said. "It has been a tough year. This organization is going to make some changes. This is the right time for me to go and allow this organization to grow and improve."
Taylor made the Pro Bowl six times, spending much of his career at end before switching to linebacker. He has been used mostly in passing situations this season and has seven sacks this season, which ranks second on the team.
"He's a great leader, a great ambassador for the city of Miami, and a great player in this league," teammate Jake Long said. "He'll definitely be missed."
His best season was in 2006, when he was chosen NFL Defensive Player of the Year. That season he had 13½ sacks, forced 10 fumbles and returned two interceptions for scores.
Taylor has scored nine touchdowns, the most by any player whose primary position was the defensive line and who entered the league after 1970. He has four safeties, which ties him for fourth in NFL history. Taylor holds a Dolphins record with 27 fumble recoveries.
He has been honored many times for his work in the community, and his South Florida foundation has contributed more than $2 million in grants and services to help children.
"He's a tremendous role model," teammate Kendall Langford said. "He is always giving, giving, giving."
"I look forward to the future. There are a few irons in the fire," Taylor said. "Nothing is going to replace professional football. You can't find it on the golf course or anywhere. There's no place like an NFL locker room. Those guys become your family for seven months of the year. You won't replace that. But I'll find something else."