Originally posted on Pro Sports Daily  |  Last updated 12/26/13
During a practice with the Baltimore Ravens this year, Brandon Stokley made a self-deprecating observation about his NFL career. "You know, there's nobody who has played as long as me who has caught as few balls as me," Stokley said with a laugh to his receivers coach Jim Hostler. There's a compliment in there, somewhere. Start with only 18 NFL receivers have made it through 15 seasons. As usual, Stokley's instincts were impeccable. His 397 catches are easily the fewest of the group — 160 less than No. 17 Troy Brown's 557. Stokley won't catch up. The former Broncos slot receiver has played his last game. After talking it over with Ravens general manager Ozzie Newsome three weeks ago, Stokley knew he was finished playing. Placed on season-ending injured reserve with his latest concussion, Stokley's retirement will become official when the Ravens' season ends. He no doubt could have played again next year, as dependable slot receivers are in short supply. But Stokley is one of the few who is retiring on his terms. "I'm glad I played this year because now I know I'm done," Stokley said Thursday in the living room of his Castle Rock home. "Had I not played this year I would have always felt I could have kept playing. I still know I can play but my body just can't go through it anymore." A string of injuries was the reason why Stokley doesn't have the career stats of the other 15-year receivers. Character, the football intelligence of a coach's son, a team-above-self attitude and the ability to make the clutch catch on third down were why Stokley was always in demand. "I think Brandon is the best teammate I've ever had," said Broncos quarterback Peyton Manning, who played with Stokley in Indianapolis from 2003-06 and again with the Broncos in 2012. "He's a guy you want on your team in your corner. Fifteen years as a slot receiver in the NFL, going across the middle, taking hits, it's almost unheard of."
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