Newest Jet Ryan Kalil arrived at Jets camp Saturday knowing he'd face the inevitable question. Why did he choose to un-retire after announcing he was calling it a career following 12 seasons with the Panthers?
"My contract had expired in Carolina and it felt like the right time to move on," Kalil said. "I was coming off a couple injuries and it felt like I was slowing down."
The former USC Trojan spent the first part of the offseason back in California and "living the beach life a bit," but it didn't take long for him to start to miss the game he'd spent his whole life playing.
"I had a hard time moving on and a hard time turning a page," Kalil said. "I think a lot of players go through this. I just felt like I had more football in me."
"There were a lot of people on my way out who told me I wasn't done yet," he added. "That kind of stuck out in my head."
Kalil said he wanted to stay in shape, and worked out the only way he knew how, by preparing for another football season. After starting to lift weights in March and then beginning a running progarm a few weeks later, Kalil knew he still had more left in the tank.
"The plan was to stay ready and see if there was an opportunity somewhere to fill in and the opportunity came here in New York," he said.
Jets general manager Joe Douglas did his due dilligence and placed a call to Kalil's agent shortly before training camp. There was some mutual interest and contract negotiations began from there. After a few conversations, Douglas knew he had his man to anchor the Jets offensive line.
"When you talk about a guy that we want in this organization, Ryan Kalil is a guy that checks all those boxes," Douglas said. "He's a highly-decorated player. A five-time Pro Bowler, a two-time first-team All-Pro. As good as he is on the field, he's an even better teammate, father, husband and brother. We couldn't be more excited to add Ryan."
"We talked a lot about what made a winning team," Kalil said of his talks with Douglas. "I told Joe the best teams I've been on had a good balance of old experience and young experience."
For Douglas, it's that type of veteran leadership that makes him feel that Kalil could be the perfect mentor for quarterback Sam Darnold.
"I think it's going to be very beneficial for Sam," Douglas said. "I think we're a young team and when you have veterans that have proven to be great players in the league, the young guys watch them every day. They watch every single move they make. Not only Sam, but I think every young player is going to watch how he prepares."
Head coach Adam Gase added that the team will figure out practice schedule for Kalil in the coming days, but naturally is excited for him to join the team, as well.
"He's a veteran presence, and it also creates depth on our offensive line," Gase said. "It's a lot on the center in this system, so we're glad to have him."