Titans Lineman Matthews Hangs Up Cleats After 19 Years

July 15, 2002

By MARK BABINECK
Associated Press Writer


Bruce Matthews discusses his career at a press conference announcing his retirement from the NFL.

HOUSTON (AP) - Bruce Matthews, the most durable offensive lineman in NFLhistory - not to mention one of the best - thought he would know it was time toretire when he didn't want to play anymore.

It didn't work out that way, Matthews said Monday in announcing hisretirement from the Tennessee Titans after 296 games over 19 years spententirely with the franchise, including the first 14 when it was the HoustonOilers.

'I thought when you retire you're done with it and you don't have thedesire to play any more,' Matthews said. Instead, Matthews vacillated duringthe offseason before finally deciding to spend the upcoming season in hissuburban Houston home rather than Nashville, Tenn.

Titans owner Bud Adams played host to Matthews' farewell news conference athis KSA Industries Inc. offices in southwest Houston. He praised the lineman'spresence on and off the field as he introduced him.

'He obviously was a great football player, but what I found admirable aboutBruce was that God and family were clearly more important than football andthis is what made him such a special man, not just a special football player,'Adams said.

Matthews will join running back Earl Campbell, defensive end Elvin Bethea,safety Jim Norton and fellow offensive lineman and best friend Mike Munchak asthe only Oilers/Titans to have their numbers retired by the franchise.

Munchak, an NFL Hall of Famer who played alongside Matthews for 12 years andhas coached him the last seven, said he knew the team's first-round draft pickin 1983 would live up to a reputation earned as a star at Southern California.

'When he actually stepped on the field, all eyes were on him,' Munchaksaid. 'Watching him in practice that first day ... I knew we had somethingspecial here.'

Matthews leaves behind some impressive numbers for a position short onstatistics:

-His 14 Pro Bowls, nine at guard and five at center, matched Merlin Olsenfor most in NFL history. He was voted first-team All-Pro six times.

-Matthews blocked for four 1,000-yard rushers: Campbell, Mike Rozier, GaryBrown and Eddie George. He also paved the way for Charles White and MarcusAllen to win Heisman Trophies at USC.

-He appeared in every game in the 1990s, a feat accomplished only by fellowlineman Randall McDaniel of Minnesota.

-Titans coach Jeff Fisher, a teammate of Matthews' for two seasons at USC,estimated the lineman was in on more than 21,000 plays.

-Combined with brother Clay Matthews, who ranks on sixth in games played at278, they established what might be an unbreakable record of 574 NFL games bybrothers.

Matthews toyed with the idea of a 20th season not in Nashville but back inHouston, where he lives with his wife and six children and owns a constructioncompany with Munchak and friend Bob Queen.

'But that wasn't the way it was meant to be, and I don't have a problemwith that,' said Matthews, who's looking forward to Friday nights watchingsons Steven and Kevin play high school football.

Matthews called the Titans' 2000 Super Bowl appearance his career highpoint, with the nadir being the franchise's litany of playoff disasters,especially the 1992 wildcard game in which the Oilers blew a 32-point lead inthe third quarter and lost 41-38 to the Buffalo Bills.

His quarterback then, Warren Moon, praised Matthews on Monday.

'Bruce was the most talented, intelligent and competitive lineman I playedwith in my 20 years of professional football,' Moon said. 'There may havebeen more physical players or intelligent players or competitive players, butno one had them all wrapped up into one package like Bruce.'

Former foes were equally effusive.

'Bruce Matthews has been a great ambassador for the National FootballLeague,' Pittsburgh Steelers coach Bill Cowher said. 'He has been anoutstanding competitor and ultimate professional.'

Matthews said he'll still follow the Titans as the expansion Houston Texansbegin playing. The Oiler/Titan Columbia blue blood was clearly flowing whenasked how he thought he might have reacted playing in Houston as a visitingplayer.

'We would have killed them,' Matthews said. 'The Texans have got to taketheir lumps.'

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