Vinny Testaverde passes on retirement

Glen Farley

Given the option to retire at the age of 43, Vinny Testaverde decided to do what he's done 6,529 times over the course of his 20-year NFL career.


“I feel like a lot of guys who have retired. A year later, their bodies start to feel better and physically they start to feel better and they say, 'Boy, I wish I could make a comeback,'” Testaverde said as he stood in front of his locker stall at Gillette Stadium on Monday. “But it's too late because they've been out of the game for a year and it's hard to get back in once you do that.

“So, I just kind of put my time in conditioning and in the weight room, and if I did that and got through the offseason and didn't want to play, then I'd call it quits,” said Testaverde. “But I still have that hunger, that taste for wanting to go out and get a little bit more. So that's why I do it.”

Now that Testaverde has officially opted to take another fling at it, the start of his 21st NFL season is less than three weeks away.

Under the terms of an agreement with Patriots head coach Bill Belichick, Testaverde had an unwritten “Manny Ramirez clause” in his contract; basically, he could report to training camp when the spirit moved him.

That day just so happened to be upon the conclusion of double sessions, halfway through the preseason schedule.

“Vinny can still play the position and gives us depth and experience at that spot,” Belichick said in explaining the decision to bring Testaverde back for a second season in New England. “Each year is its own new year. We'll evaluate based on what we see this year and how it goes here in the coming practices and the two preseason games. But Vinny brings a wealth of experience and, based on last year, he was able to do the things a quarterback needs to do to be productive in this league.”

Summoned by the Patriots last Nov. 14, Testaverde joined franchise quarterback Tom Brady and backup Matt Cassel (32 career passes in the NFL) in the signal-calling mix in New England and added to his league record by throwing a touchdown pass for the 20th straight season when he tossed a 6-yarder to wide receiver Troy Brown in the back of the end zone with 1:45 to play in the Patriots' 40-23 win over the Tennessee Titans at LP Field last Dec. 31.

According to Testaverde, who entered the league when the Tampa Bay Buccaneers made him the first overall pick in the 1987 draft, thoughts of hitting “Blackjack” — 21 — haven't entered his mind.

“I didn't really have it (in mind) last year until Bill mentioned it the last week of the year,” said Testaverde, who ranks in the top 10 in NFL history in passing yards (sixth with 45,281), completions (sixth with 3,693), attempts (seventh with 6,529) and TD passes (eighth with 270). “I'm just trying to be part of this team, helping them win games in any capacity that I can.”

Neither Belichick nor Testaverde provided an answer when asked if the veteran quarterback would get on the field against the Carolina Panthers at Bank of America Stadium this Friday night.

For now, the old man is a student.

“I'm just trying to learn the new plays we got in right now. I haven't talked to anybody about playing,” said Testaverde. “Whatever it's going to be, it'll be, and I'll try to be as prepared as I can be.”