By Janie McCauley
Saturday, August 6, 2005 6:31 PM
NAPA, Calif. -- Rich Gannon officially called it quits Saturday, retiring from the Oakland Raiders after missing most of last season with a broken vertebra in his neck.
Now, he's headed to the broadcast booth.
The 39-year-old quarterback, supported by about a dozen teammates and several coaches, announced his decision at the team's wine country training facility -- and it had been expected for months.
"As far as the decision to retire, it was an easy one for me," Gannon said, sitting alongside team owner Al Davis and coach Norv Turner. "It really was not my decision. I was not able to continue to play physically. That really takes all the guess work out of it for a player like myself, who still feels that he's got enough left in his tank and enough left in his arm and his legs to continue to play."
Gannon, the 2002 NFL MVP, already has signed with CBS Sports as an NFL game analyst after playing 18 seasons in the league. He guided the Raiders to the 2003 Super Bowl before spending much of the last two seasons injured.
He injured his neck in the third week last season in a helmet-to-helmet collision with Tampa Bay linebacker Derrick Brooks.
Gannon threw for 28,743 yards and 180 touchdowns in his career with Minnesota, Washington, Kansas City and Oakland. He won his MVP award while leading the Raiders to the Super Bowl in the 2002 season, passing for 4,689 yards and 26 touchdowns while completing more than 67 percent of his passes.
"Let me say that today is an emotional day for the organization because it's a premature ending because of injury," Davis said in a rare public appearance. "Think what you want, his age was not the factor by any means -- it was what he said it was, injury. It's a proud day. ... The proudness is Rich Gannon wore the famed colors silver and black for six years. He gave us something that we needed, and we needed it badly. He gave us a worker."
Gannon never stopped working even after his injury.
He tried to help any way possible last season, attending meetings and games while wearing a bulky, plastic brace. He consulted with four of the country's top neck and spine specialists, and they advised him not to play last season. Gannon held out hope of playing this year though he knew it was unlikely.
Gannon's stardom didn't come easily.
He was traded to Minnesota only two weeks after New England drafted him out of Delaware in the fourth round in 1987. He played for the Vikings until 1992, spent '93 with Washington, sat out the 1994 season after shoulder surgery, then became an effective starter in Kansas City from 1995-98.
Gannon left the Chiefs as a free agent in 1999, and quickly became a sensation in Oakland.
"Six years ago, in 1999, I was really a journeyman quarterback," Gannon said. "I had played in the league 11 or 12 years and never really felt I was given an opportunity or chance to be an every day player. In 1999, the Oakland Raiders, Mr. Davis and Jon Gruden gave me that opportunity to be an everyday starter. I tried to make the most of that opportunity. ... I can tell you this, I never took one day of my career in the National Football League for granted."