Panthers veteran LT Jordan Gross to retire after 11 seasons

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CHARLOTTE, N.C. — Panthers offensive tackle Jordan Gross will retire after 11 seasons, the team confirmed on Tuesday.

Gross, 33, spent his entire NFL career with the Panthers, playing in the 2003 Super Bowl as a rookie. He also went to three Pro Bowls during his career.

Gross had previously said he had planned to play through the 2014 season, but he agreed to restructure his contract last year to help the team with its salary cap situation. His contract would have automatically “void” this month, according to the Charlotte Observer.

Gross is expected to make an official announcement on Wednesday.

“I’ve played a lot of football here, and I’ve seen a lot of guys come and a lot of guys go,” Gross said. “Sometimes it ends well for guys, and sometimes it is not the ending they were looking for. “I knew that this was the time for me to step away – happy, healthy and thinking fondly about my experience.”

Gross, the eighth overall selection in the 2003 NFL Draft, went out in style, helping the Panthers reach the playoffs for the fifth time in franchise history – four of which included him. Gross started all 16 games in 2013, helping the offense rush for more than 100 yards in 14 of them.

But the 33-year old had been debating whether to call it a career, a process that continued when he traveled to Hawaii for his third Pro Bowl in the last six seasons. The Pro Bowl proved to be his last game.

“I didn’t want to leave until I felt the team was back in a good position for sustained success,” Gross said. “The team is there now. There is good, young leadership, there are talented players, and there are guys that really want to work hard and want to win.”

Gross, a native of Idaho who attended the University of Utah, started all 167 games played with the Panthers – the most starts in franchise history. He started every game at right tackle as a rookie, when the Panthers advanced to Super Bowl XXXVIII and went on to spend three of his first five seasons on the right side while not missing a single game.

He permanently moved to left tackle in 2008 – the first season he made the Pro Bowl – and missed just nine games over his last six seasons, including the final seven of the 2009 season with a broken leg. In 2010, Gross won the Ed Block Courage Award for his successful return from the injury that included his second Pro Bowl appearance.

“I know what it takes to play the position of left tackle in the NFL, and I know that I have a standard that I’ve always kept up with,” Gross said. “I know that I’ve kind of done my job to pass the torch. It’s time for somebody else to carry it.”

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