INDIANAPOLIS — That he could walk away from the NFL on his own terms after a decade was reaffirming for Anthony Castonzo.
The starting offensive left tackle reiterated there wasn’t any doubt about calling it a 10-year career in his Tuesday retirement announcement.
“I feel extremely fortunate that I feel like I put everything that I had for 10 years into the game and have really no regrets,” Castonzo said. “That’s allowed me to be really at peace with this retirement. I’m going away and I have not a single regret that I can think of. That has me at a really good place.”
Although never honored with a Pro Bowl nod — being named an alternate in 2019 — Castonzo because an O-line cornerstone after being drafted in the first round with the 22nd overall selection in 2011.
He doesn’t lament not being honored. As he’s said to his father when the topic has been broached, Castonzo is confident he did everything he could to play his best in starting all 144 games of his career. He missed five games this season due to ankle and knee injuries, but missed just 17 games overall in his career.
Castonzo said he was glad to return for 2020 after signing a two-year, $33-million contract in March, but doesn’t regret walking away from the back end of a front-loaded contract. The Colts will recoup $16 million in salary-cap space without carrying any dead cap space.
In reviewing his career, Castonzo said he will miss most just being one of the guys in the locker room and hanging out with teammates. He said he consulted with retired Colts quarterback Andrew Luck and offensive guard Jack Mewhort before making his decision.
He came a long way from his days as a rookie, when the young tackle was humbled by Colts star pass rusher Dwight Freeney in practice. As he’s said many times, Freeney was the best pass-rusher that Castonzo ever faced.
An affable giant at 6-7 and 307 pounds, Castonzo became a strong O-line leader in the locker room and media interviews. He spoke his mind, but didn’t say too much, a player comfortable in his own skin. That made him one of the more likable Colts in his career.
He said the Colts were understanding about his decision and didn’t try to talk him into playing one more year because he was “convincing.” In fact, he said Colts management congratulated him on walking away on his own terms.
“It just seemed it was the right time,” said Castonzo, who had contemplated retirement before re-signing for this season. “After doing it, I’m very pleased with my decision. I feel very good about it.”
The process of constantly striving to get better, which included a rigorous offseason routine that started rather quickly after a season had concluded, will also be something Castonzo misses.
His introduction into the NFL provided a reminder to expect the unexpected from the beginning. Castonzo looked forward to blocking for quarterback Peyton Manning, but the legendary passer spent 2011 on injured reserve and was released after the year.
Who replaces Castonzo could end up being the guy who played inside of him the past three seasons. Three-time, All-Pro offensive left guard Quenton Nelson is being considered for the job, according to head coach Frank Reich. Castonzo said he has no doubt that Nelson could make the transition because “Big Q” has proven himself to be one of the NFL’s best offensive linemen.
“Obviously, I’ve dreamed about playing in the NFL since I was a little kid,” Castonzo said. “As I said in my statement that I released, it was completely different than I ever could have imagined. Some of it was better, some of it was worse, and like you said, some of it was different. It was definitely a wild ride.”