Alan Faneca made no secret in the final weeks of the 2010 season that it could well be his last in the rugged trenches of the NFL.
On Tuesday, the eight-time All-Pro guard announced his retirement after 13 years in the league.
"From the dog days of training camp to winning a Super Bowl, the memories are endless," Faneca said in a statement released through his agent Rick Smith. "The greatest memory that I will leave the game with is all of the lifelong friendships I have made."
The former Pittsburgh Steelers and New York Jets standout played last season with the Arizona Cardinals. Faneca started every game during his last nine seasons and finished with a streak of 144 consecutive games played, the longest active streak for a guard and third-longest for any offensive lineman, behind those posted by Kansas City center Casey Wiegmann (158) and Detroit tackle Jeff Backus (159).
"For some time, I think he's been recognized as one of the best to play that position -- ever," Whisenhunt said.
The coach said he hoped the Cardinals would "get one more year" from Faneca, but Whisenhunt respects the player's decision.
In his statement, Faneca thanked everyone -- coaches, front-office personnel, even beat writers who covered his teams.
"These guys work hard and always treated me with respect," he said. "I want to also thank the fans. The roar of the crowd kept me going more than the fans will ever know."
The 34-year-old lineman was the Steelers' first-round draft pick out of LSU in 1998. He played 10 seasons with Pittsburgh before signing a five-year, $40 million contract with the Jets in 2008, which would have made him the highest-paid offensive lineman in NFL history had he played its entire length.
Faneca had said late last season that he was seriously contemplating retirement but would take some time before making his decision. In an interview Tuesday on SiriusXM radio, he said he told the Cardinals a month ago he was "pretty much going to retire."
"I really made my mind up about a month ago and was just kind of keeping my mouth shut for the Cardinals organization and giving them a chance," Faneca said.
He was the 26th overall pick in the 1998 draft and started 12 games as a Pittsburgh rookie. By the time he was finished, Faneca appeared in 206 regular-season games, 201 as a starter. In addition, he played in and started 14 playoff games, four in the Steelers' Super Bowl championship season of 2005.
"It is time to move on to the next chapter in my life," Faneca said. "I can't wait to spend more time with my family. Playing in this league for as long as I did takes sacrifice, not only by me, but by each of them."
Faneca might not have been re-signed by Arizona anyway, but now that isn't even an option. His departure leaves a vacancy at left guard. Meanwhile, right guard Deuce Lutui and center Lyle Sendlein have expiring contracts. The Cardinals did not address those positions in the draft but say they plan to do so when the NFL labor dispute is settled and free-agent signings are allowed.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.