After the game ended, and the postgame speeches were done, Ryan Kerrigan walked a lap around the field, soaking in everything.
Kerrigan, a pass rusher, was taken in the first round of the 2011 NFL draft. During the past decade, the Washington Football Team star has been one of the few sure things on a team where the names changed on a nearly annual basis.
Saturday, with his time in Washington likely coming to an end, he said he wanted to remember it all one more time.
“I’m looking at one end zone and it’s where I scored a touchdown in my first game against the Giants,” he said. “I’m looking at the other end zone and it’s a good memory from ‘18, a forced fumble on Dak Prescott, and Preston Smith picked it up to score a touchdown, and the crowd was as loud as I’ve ever heard it.
“I think those emotions kind of compiling together made me a little emotional, but it’s good. I’m glad I was able to kind of reflect.”
With the emergence of star rookie Chase Young and second-year player Montez Sweat, Kerrigan was not a starter this year for the first time in his career.
He said he still believes he has several productive years left in him, and it’s unlikely Washington wants to pay him top dollar to play a bit role, and it’s unlikely he’d have any interest in that role.
“I definitely want to be a starter,” Kerrigan said. “I mean, I think any player would say that. I don’t think anybody just wants to settle for being a role player or a reserve player. So I definitely want to be a starter again.”
Kerrigan’s fellow defensive linemen lauded his leadership and how open he was in sharing his tips and tricks with the younger players who took his job.
“RK didn’t have to open his arms to me and help me throughout the whole season. You hear them stories where that doesn’t happen all the time,” Young said. “RK knows it’s all love. We’re going to have this relationship forever. That’s big bro. I’ve got nothing but love for RK. He knows that.”
“He’s is a guy that you can just sit back and watch and emulate,” defensive tackle Daron Payne said. “Everything he does is the right way to do things, and you can learn so much from him if you just sit back and watch him.
“I appreciate him. I love him to death and I’m just happy that I got a chance to play with him.”
If this is indeed the end, Kerrigan will leave Washington as the franchise’s career sacks leader (95½), having passed Dexter Manley (91) this season.
“It’s pretty damn cool,” he said. “To become the all-time sack leader here, for a franchise that has been around for a long time, is pretty cool. It’s not something I take for granted. It’s not something I take lightly. I’m just really blessed and fortunate to have that.”
The bittersweet part of Kerrigan’s departure is that it is happening right after a playoff appearance, something he was able to do just three times in the past decade.
He said he believes brighter days are ahead for the franchise, noting that the defense struggled against Tampa Bay and Tom Brady, but still found a way to stay competitive.
“We lost by 8 points and it didn’t really feel like we played great football, so that’s exciting in a way, that we were that close to beating a team that’s pretty damn good and has Tom Brady as their quarterback, and we didn’t even play particularly well,” he said.
“So to think, had we put our best foot forward, who knows what would have happened yesterday?”
There should be widespread interest in Kerrigan once free agency begins, given that pass rushers are in high demand.
An early estimate is that he could receive as much as $10 million a year, though he may have to hit incentives to reach that number.
He said one positive of the situation in Washington this year was that the season ended, and he didn’t feel as beat up as he usually does.
“Hopefully, that’ll help me maybe add a year or two here on the back end of my career, and allow me to continue to play at a high level, and play even longer at a high level,” he said.