BY JEFF FALK
PHOTOS COURTESY OF JACKSONVILLE JAGUARS
Jared Odrick may or may not play professional football ever again. Not even he knows for sure – and that’s OK.
Part of you should be sad for him. Part of you should be glad for him.
If he does play again, it will be on his terms. And while to a degree, Odrick has always lived on his own terms, his current stance represents a certain level of maturity, a specific degree of contentment.
Odrick is an unsigned, unrestricted free agent – has been for the better part of the last three months. NFL teams want him to continue to play professional football, and so does Odrick, but at his price, not their’s.
It may be that Odrick’s body is worth more to him than it is to them.
“I’d like to play, but in the right situation,” said Odrick. “When people end up talking football, they say, ‘You played seven years’. And they don’t think that’s a long time. Little do people realize the average NFL career is three or four years. I’ve been playing football (at one level or another) for 17 years.
“It would have to be the right team, the right coach, the right scheme,” continued Odrick. “I would have to put myself in the best position to help a team, and help myself.”
After being released by the Jacksonville Jaguars in February, Odrick has had communications with the Philadelphia Eagles, the New England Patriots, the New York Giants and the Seattle Seahawks. ‘A few other teams have been quiet’, was the way Odrick put it.
Odrick, 29, is a local native, a graduate of Lebanon High School and a former Penn State star who was named the Big Ten’s Defensive Player of the Year in 2009.
“Most of them are half-assed,” said Odrick of the offers he’s been given. “Before the draft, they (NFL teams) go dumpster diving. I said ‘No’ to some pretty low offers. Low offers for putting your body out there. We’ll see where it goes.
“I’d like to play, if I know the trade-off with football is fair for my worth,” added Odrick. “I think sometimes people are confused. I can have my own decision-making, and it’s based on things that have come before me.”
There seems to be at least two very distinct free-agent signing periods in the NFL – one before the April 27-29 draft and one after it. Odrick is one of a number of notable free agents currently unsigned in the NFL.
As a defensive lineman, what the 6-5, 298-pound Odrick brings to the table is versatility – an ability to stop the run and put pressure on the quarterback from inside – leadership, experience, an unrelenting work ethic and a locker room presence.
But if Odrick goes unsigned over the next couple of weeks it does not mean he can’t hook up with a team over the summer.
“Once you get to this point, going into your eighth year, it’s hard to get excited about going into Spring things that don’t get you paid,” said Odrick. “The game changes when you put the pads on. Once you’re married to someone for so long, you know what works and doesn’t work.”
Odrick signed a five-year, $42.5-million contract – less than half of which was guaranteed – with Jacksonville in March of 2015. Following a productive initial season with the Jags, Odrick was limited by a number of injuries – including a shoulder ailment that ended his year – to six games, 12 tackles and one sack in 2016.
There was some controversy as to how Odrick’s shoulder injury should be healed, surgically or naturally.
Before this past year, Odrick had not missed a game in five seasons, with Jacksonville and the Miami Dolphins, a string of 90 straight. The Dolphins selected Odrick out of Penn State with the 28th overall selection in the 2010 NFL draft.
“I wouldn’t say it was a disappointing season,” said Odrick. “It was difficult. Coming back from an injury and getting injured again made me think of my first season. A lot of players’ concerns become overcoming injuries. It was a difficult position to be in, coming off a season having led the team in sacks. Things played out the way they did.
“I didn’t mind getting released,” Odrick continued. “I felt like I did everything I could to help the team and the defensive line. Getting released is part of the game. I refused to do what was expected of me (when a player is released). It was like the public expected a solemn cry for help.”
If indeed this is the end of Odrick’s playing days, it certainly went down in a way he couldn’t have predicted. But it would also be an end he has been preparing for for quite some time.
Odrick is in a good place, mentally, financially, emotionally, and perhaps most important, physically. He won’t need help walking when he’s 40. He’ll know his name when he’s 50. And he may even have full range of motion in his shoulder for the rest of his days.
Those are things you can’t put a price on.
“Sometimes I feel that something is pulling me away,” said Odrick. “You can use football as a crutch not to develop yourself in other areas, your personal relationships, your relationships with family. Just because of the time, and the physical and mental aspects involved with football. Those things pull you away.”
But people don’t retire at 29. They move on to the next phases of life. Like many young people, Odrick isn’t exactly sure what floats his boat, what gets his juices flowing, what to do with the rest of his life outside of football.
Those things are important to him. He needs to feel passion about the things he does – the way he used to feel about football.