Simply put, Max Unger's soon-to-be 33-year old body couldn't go any longer.
After 10 seasons in the NFL, including four with the New Orleans Saints, the Pro Bowl center had to call it quits.
Unger spoke to the media Monday, two days after the surprising announcement that he was retiring from the game that has been such an important part of his life since his freshman year of high school.
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"At the end of the day, I guess I'm retiring because I didn't think I could make it through another season," said Unger, who turns 33 in April. "I've had health issues. At the end of the day, you kind of evaluate how you're playing and where you see life after football going."
Unger said he had been having issues with a lower body injury over the years that made it difficult for him to even get in his stance. A doctor recommended surgery that would have sidelined him for most of the offseason, but he didn't want to have to do that. He had a foot surgery before the 2017 (unrelated to his current lingering injury) that sidelined him for that offseason and he didn't want to have to miss another offseason.
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"To do that going into Year 11, I didn't think that would work out," Unger said.
Unger, who had one year left on his contract, was set to make a base salary of $5.1 million contract with an additional $1.75 million signing bonus and $1.85 million roster bonus.
He made the decision over the last month and said he informed the Saints before the start of free agency.
Unger, who came to the Saints in 2015 in the Jimmy Graham trade, was elected to the Pro Bowl for a third time this past seaso, but decided not to play in the game.
Despite his Pro Bowl selection, he says he had noticed a "rapid" decline in his play.
"I'm getting older," Unger said. "There's no way for me to replicate my play from five years ago or a couple years ago. That's just a reality of life. That's a tough pill to swallow, too. Was I playing bad? No. Was I playing up to my standards? I don't think so either. So that was a factor."
Unger, a Hawaii native, plans to return to his home state and says he could possibly pursue a career coaching high school football there someday. He says he'll miss the locker room camaraderie.
"It's not easy," he said. "There are a lot of close relationships and guys I have a lot of respect for. Having to call them and tell them, it's tough. The last month I came to the realization that I was done."
He exits as one of the most durable guys on the Saints' offensive line. He started in 63 of 64 regular-season games with the Saints, missing just one start in the 2016 season.
The trade was never supposed to be about the center.
He took off his No. 60 Saints jersey for the final time in January after the Saints' heartbreaking loss to the Los Angeles Rams in the NFC championship game.
Did he know that was the end?
"I wasn't sure," Unger said. "Did I think in my head it might be (the end)? Absolutely. Obviously that's not the way you want to go out. At the end of the day, your health is the priority. If it was the last game, obviously that sucks. But at the end of the day you look back at your career and think about more than that one game."