FLORHAM PARK, N.J. — D’Brickashaw Ferguson didn’t shed a tear for the cameras. Instead, he was all smiles standing in front of a packed auditorium. The time had come Thursday morning for the Jets’ longtime left tackle to say farewell, and Ferguson, 32, was more than ready.
When asked if he might consider returning to the game like Brett Favre, the Freeport native said, “If I’m going to do this, I’m going to see it through.”
The three-time Pro Bowler said, “I’m not retiring because of CTE,” dispelling speculation that his decision was tied to fears of developing chronic traumatic encephalopathy, the degenerative brain disease that can occur from repeated concussions.
Ferguson also said his conversation with the Jets about taking a pay cut had no bearing on his decision. He said that considering how his contract was structured, “I wasn’t surprised that was going to take place.’’
He was due a 2016 base salary of $8.625 million, plus several bonuses that would have created a $14.1-million salary-cap hit, the highest of any NFL offensive lineman. Ferguson’s workout bonus of $750,000 was due in June, and he was scheduled to earn a $1-million roster bonus at the end of training camp. By retiring, he saved the Jets $9.1 million.
He decided he no longer could sustain the high performance level he displayed over a 10-year career spanning 167 consecutive games. “I also recognized that’s not easy,” he said. “When that continues to get harder and harder and harder, you also have to ask yourself: How long can I continue to do this?”
Still, he admittedly was hurt when he heard the Jets were exploring other options this offseason. The same day Ferguson announced his retirement, a source confirmed to Newsday that the Jets had agreed to trade a fifth-round pick to Denver for oft-injured left tackle Ryan Clady and a seventh-rounder.
“It was difficult,” Ferguson said. “I was taken aback. I just wasn’t used to that. But I also recognize this happens in football. There’s a natural progression in sports. No matter who you are, there’s an end.”
For 10 years, Ferguson protected the blind side of Jets quarterbacks. The No. 4 overall pick in 2006 never missed a play because of injury — a total of 10,707 out of 10,708 offensive snaps. Owner Woody Johnson called his play “legendary,” adding that the former Virginia standout is “one of the finest players ever to be a Jet.”
Ferguson’s news conference was a glimpse into who he is at his core — a meticulous man, revered by his family, teammates and coaches. Several attended, including Geno Smith, Nick Mangold, Willie Colon, Lorenzo Mauldin and Quincy Enunwa. Former Jets Bart Scott and Antonio Cromartie also came.
“I couldn’t be happier for Brick,” said Mangold, who was drafted 25 spots after Ferguson. “Brick is everything you can ask for in a football player and a friend. A perfect 10 years.”
Ferguson couldn’t help but be blown away by the outpouring of love and support. “You guys have pins!” he exclaimed, referring to the green and white No. “60” farewell pins handed out. “Who has pins?” he asked, beaming.
Ferguson acknowledged his faith, his hometown and his former coaches who helped shape his game during his formative years. He also shared his personal story of undergoing open-heart surgery at 9, and why a boy who “was not born to play football” felt compelled to prove people wrong.
Said Ferguson: “This all started because a young boy who happened to have open-heart surgery desperately wanted to prove his toughness — not only to himself, but to everybody, by playing football.”