On Tuesday, April 13, Seattle Seahawks defensive end Patrick Kerney announced his retirement after 11 seasons.
Kerney spent the past three years with the Seahawks but his career began when the Atlanta Falcons made him their first round pick (30th Overall) in 1999.
The Falcons were coming off their first Super Bowl appearance and tabbed Kerney to improve their pass rush which was in the bottom half of the league in 1998.
A first-team All-American at Virginia, Kerney was a finalist for the Bronko Nagurski Award, given to the nation’s best defensive lineman.
When he arrived in Flowery Branch, Lester Archambeau was the starter at left defensive end and was coming off a 10-sack season. However, he turned 32 before the season began and the Falcons could read the writing on the wall.
The Falcons endured a disastrous season following their Super Bowl appearance, losing their first four games and limping to a 5-11 finish. Kerney saw limited action but did start two games and recorded 25 tackles and 2.5 sacks on the season.
In 2000, Archambeau left for Denver via free agency opening the door for Kerney to move into the starting rotation.
He started all 16 games and recorded 2.5 sacks, 42 tackles and his first career interception but the Falcons suffered through another disappointing season (4-12).
In his third year in the league (2001), Kerney had his breakout season. He was a dominant pass rusher coming off the edge tallying 12 sacks and forcing two fumbles.
In 2002, the Falcons rewarded Kerney with a seven-year contract extension. The deal included a team-record $8.5 million signing bonus. He finished that season with 10.5 sacks and scored his first NFL touchdown vs. Baltimore.
It was also the first time since Kerney arrived that the Falcons had a winning season and made the playoffs. Kerney recorded a sack in each of the two playoff games, but the Falcons lost to the Eagles 20-6.
2003 was a down year for both Kerney and the Falcons. There was a coaching change when Dan Reeves asked for his release after a 3-10 start and Wade Phillips took over. Kerney managed just 6.5 sacks, his lowest total in three years.
Jim Mora Jr. took over head coaching duties in 2004 and the Falcons switched from a 3-4 defense to a 4-3. Kerney responded to this change by recording a career-high (at the time) 13 sacks and his second career interception.
The Falcons led the NFL in sacks and Kerney was honored as the NFC’s Defensive Player of the Month in September when he recorded five in two games.
The accolades continued when he was named to the Pro Bowl for the first time and set career-highs in Tackles (65) and passes defensed (9). He was also voted second-team All-Pro by the Associated Press and recorded his only three-sack game as a Falcon.
A down year in 2005, Kerney recorded only 6.5 sacks and the Falcons finished 8-8.
In 2006 the Falcons traded for New York Jets defensive end John Abraham. That moved Kerney from left defensive to the right side.
In Week 9 of that year, Kerney, who had started 105 consecutive games, tore his pectoral muscle and his season was over. He would miss the final seven games (the only games he ever missed in his career). He was injured while tackling Browns TE Steve Heiden. It would be the last time he would wear a Falcons uniform.
In the offseason, the eight-year pro opted out of his deal and tested the free agency waters. He signed with the Seahawks in March 2007.
Kerney went on to have great success in the Pacific Northwest. He recorded an NFC-best 14.5 sacks and forced a career-high five fumbles. These accomplishments earned him a second Pro Bowl berth in 2007 as well as being named a AP first-team All-Pro.
Kerney finished his Falcons career second on the all-time sack list with 58, only a half-sack behind Chuck Smith. Though his personal accolades were many, he only played on two winning teams while in Atlanta (2002, 2004).
I enjoyed watching #97 line up every Sunday for the Falcons and was sad to see him leave in 2007. Now that he has hung it up for good, the NFL loses a great player, but I lose the chance to see one of my favorites play.
Not too mention he was unstoppable in Madden. Widening out on the line of scrimmage and sacking the quarterback consistently. Good times.
Thanks for the memories, #97.