A little more than two months after closing the door on the Bears, Olin Kreutz has closed the door on the Saints.
Kreutz decided he didn’t want to play anymore Thursday, according to his agent Mark Bartelstein.
And the Saints’ stance on Kreutz might have been had a factor in his decision as well. NFL sources said the team had shopped him before the trading deadline on Tuesday but found no takers.
When Kreutz was injured with a knee sprain, the team liked what it saw of replacement Brian De la Puente, a 26-year-old journeyman. De la Puente will replace Kreutz in the starting lineup, according to Saints coach Sean Payton.
Bartelstein said this has been brewing for a couple of weeks.
“His energy wasn’t quite the same,” he said. “He called me Tuesday morning and said, ’I’m not feeling it, not having a good time, my passion is not where needs to be. If I don’t have that, I can’t play.’ “
When Bartelstein first told the Saints on Wednesday, he said Payton and general manager Mickey Loomis tried to talk Kreutz into continuing his career. Kreutz was given the day off Wednesday. On Thursday, he made his decision final.
“It catches you off guard a little bit,” Loomis told the New Orleans Times-Picayune. “We liked having him on our team, and what he represents and what he’s done throughout his career. It’s unfortunate that he won’t be here. But look, we’re better for having had Olin Kreutz here.”
If Kreutz is done, he finishes a decorated career that included six Pro Bowl appearances and four all pro-team selections. Moreover, he will be remembered as one of the greatest warriors and leaders of his generation. He also was voted to the all decade team for the 2000s.
At 34, he wasn’t the same player he once was though.
“It’s always difficult, especially when you talk about a player who I think is a hall of fame center,” Payton said. “I think the challenge for all of us when the train begins to slow down and you begin to maybe feel like it’s that time — and make no mistake, that happens for every player, every coach, every owner — there’s a lot of emotions involved in that.”
Kreutz signed a one-year deal worth $2 million with the Saints in August after turning down $4 million from the Bears. His contract with the Saints is guaranteed, but Kreutz won’t collect it because quitting was his choice.
He will be put on the “did not report” list, which waives his guarantee.
Bartelstein said Kreutz will not sign retirement papers yet. In the event he changes his mind, he can still come back.
“But I think in his mind, he’s retired,” Bartelstein said. “After 14 years, he was just mentally worn out.”