‘It’s really cool’: Ryan Kerrigan takes pride in being Redskins latest prolific player

ASHBURN — As Ryan Kerrigan retires from football, the former defensive end knows he has a great honor: With the Burgundy and Gold now renamed the Commanders, Kerrigan will likely be remembered as the Redskins’ last prolific player.

“It’s really cool,” Kerrigan said. “I know this team means a lot to a lot of people, and it’s one of the oldest teams, one of the oldest franchises in the league and had a lot of great players. So for people to think of me that way is pretty cool.”

The Commanders have 11 players in camp who played under the old team moniker. But none have the kind of legacy Kerrigan left in a Redskins uniform: The 33-year-old set the franchise’s all-time sack record and whose durability led to an astonishing 139-game streak as Iron Man.

At a news conference Saturday, Kerrigan said he wants his legacy to be simply known for giving his team, and the sport, everything he had. This, after all, was coming from a man whose strict routine often saw him drink 300 ounces of water a day, eat only grilled chicken with brown rice, and spend what amounted to hours in ice baths to focus on his Recovery.

Kerrigan learned in her 11-year career, 10 with Washington, that “available” doesn’t always mean healthy.

“You make the decisions you make and you live with the results,” Kerrigan said with a smile. “It meant a lot to me. Being there for 139 games in a row or whatever and being ready to play was a testament to how I felt about the game and how I felt about my approach.”

Kerrigan’s retirement was at least a year in the making. The former first-round pick told reporters that in the spring of 2021, doctors diagnosed him with a major knee injury that helped the pass-rusher realize he would soon have to retire. So, Kerrigan privately committed to play one final season, signing a one-year deal with the Philadelphia Eagles.

That’s why Kerrigan seemed at peace with his decision, as his wife and three children attended the ceremony on Saturday. Even though Kerrigan played the 2021 season with the Eagles, Washington’s bitter division rival, the franchise welcomed him with open arms when the Purdue product signed a ceremonial one-day deal Friday to retire with the Burgundy and the Prayed.

On Friday, Kerrigan walked into the team facility to a round of applause. Defensive end Chase Young, who has credited Kerrigan with guiding him as a rookie in 2020, gave Kerrigan a hug.

“He’s a guy who could always help lead by example,” said Ron Rivera, who coached Kerrigan for just one season. “You only get so many of those guys, and when you do get them, they certainly need to be celebrated.”

Added center Chase Roullier: “Ryan is the epitome of an NFL player in a lot of different ways … one of the hardest working guys I’ve ever seen.”

Now that her career is over, Kerrigan said she wants to venture out as a coach. But Washington, he said, will always make sense. Even if the franchise now has a different name, one that Kerrigan said he likes.

“This is where my heart is,” Kerrigan said. “This is where I started. This is where unfortunately I couldn’t finish. … It’s exciting. It’s a new era of football here in Washington, and I hope that means a lot of wins in the future, some playoff wins, which unfortunately I didn’t get to experience here.”

Observations from day 4:

– Although Kerrigan was the main story of the team’s fourth day of practice, the Commanders’ offense quietly put in its best performance of camp thus far. Focusing on the red zone and two-minute situations, Wentz showed chemistry with All-Star wide receiver Terry McLaurin and rookie Jahan Dotson, the latter of whom caught a bullet pass from Wentz in the end zone.

– Rivera rested several veterans before Sunday’s scheduled day off, a group that included left tackle Charles Leno, guard Andrew Norwell, defensive lineman Jonathan Allen, defensive end Montez Sweat and wide receiver Curtis Samuel. The planned layoff gave the Commanders a chance to evaluate a number of younger players like wide receiver Dyami Brown and rookie defensive tackle Phidarian Mathis.

– With Logan Thomas rehabbing from an ACL injury and 2021 fourth-round pick John Bates sidelined with an unspecified injury, the competition at tight end is wide open. Rookie Cole Turner, at 6-foot-6, could emerge as a valuable target in the red zone. Sammis Reyes, Armani Rodgers and Curtis Hodges have all had good times behind him.

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