NASHVILLE, Tenn. -- Kerry Collins thought about calling it quits at the end of last season, only to give himself plenty of time before finally announcing his unexpected retirement earlier this month.
In the end, going out on his own terms mattered most to a 38-year-old quarterback still eager to play on Sundays but not ready for all the other work anymore.
"I didn't win a Super Bowl, and that is going to be one of the things that bugs me, I know it will," Collins said Wednesday in his first public comments to four reporters.
"But when I sit here and look back at the age of 38, I played 16 years and I had kind of a rough start, but I am proud of the way I came back from that and the things I accomplished over the years. There will be parts of it that I will miss, but I don't think I'll ever regret the decision I made."
Collins spoke with former Titans punter Craig Hentrich and his agent, David Dunn, for advice before deciding that he would leave the NFL on his own and not when his phone quit ringing.
"Very few guys get to do that," Collins said. "That was the biggest reason why I did it when I did it."
At the end of last season and as recently as late June at a charity softball game, Collins said he believed he had a couple more good years left. He then retired July 7 in a statement released by his agent.
Now Collins plans to work more at songwriting, with a couple of his songs being cut and a third possibly being recorded. He has a new Harley-Davidson motorcycle to ride without violating a contract, and he and his family will spend more time at his North Carolina farm with trips to Penn State this fall for football games.
"I'm at peace now," Collins said.
The No. 5 overall draft pick in 1995 out of Penn State, Collins was the first selection by the then-expansion Carolina Panthers. Released by the Panthers in 1998, Collins also played for the New Orleans Saints, helped the New York Giants to the 2001 Super Bowl and landed with the Oakland Raiders before his final five seasons in Tennessee.
He retires with some lofty numbers.
Collins ranks 11th all-time in passing yards with 40,441 yards between Joe Montana (40,551) and Johnny Unitas (40,239). He also ranks ninth all-time in completions with 3,439, ahead of Montana (3,409) and behind Fran Tarkenton (3,686).
Collins' career record of 84-100 as a starter might be due more to beginning his career with an expansion franchise and finding himself in Oakland and Tennessee during down times for both those teams.
Collins had one of his best seasons in 2010, throwing for 1,823 yards and 14 touchdowns with eight interceptions for an 82.2 rating that was his best since 2002.
"That was really special," Collins said of a day where everything went right.
The low is just as easy to find in the day that Carolina released him in 1998 after he had started four games for the team. Collins was struggling with alcohol and off-the-field issues, and he said he's most proud of how he responded to that situation.
The key was deciding he wanted people to think of him not for the drinking and off-the-field troubles but for being a professional who respected the game.
"Really at the end of the day, that's what I wanted people to think about. Not only for them and the outside world but myself as well," Collins said.
Collins finished the season in New Orleans before signing with the Giants in 1999, with whom he spent five seasons. Collins played in Oakland in 2004 and 2005 before being signed by Tennessee in 2006 to mentor Vince Young.
Collins started 177 of the 195 games in which he played.
Collins saw Young progress in 2010, throwing as well as he'd seen.
"All of a sudden, some things are happening, and it all goes to pot," Collins said. "But I saw signs of him figuring it out a little bit. Maybe there's still hope."
Copyright 2011 by The Associated Press