After nine years in the NFL, Kansas City Chiefs defensive end Mike DeVito is calling it quits.
The 31-year-old DeVito, who announced his retirement on Twitter on Monday, said his wife, Jessie, helped him reach the decision.
“When I look at it, my wife was the biggest reason — she helped me break down the process and think it through,” said DeVito, who expressed interest in continuing his football career as recently as a month ago. “I do love the game of football and I’m thinking about all the guys I’ll miss and that locker room and the coaches ... it’s hard to think about.
“But I have people here that will expect me to be here and be a father and be a husband and a leader of my family.”
DeVito wants to believe he could have helped the Chiefs again as a rotational player, but at the end of the day, the combination of his age and the two concussions he suffered last year were enough to convince him to hang them up. DeVito made it clear he feels great, but his wife did not want him to put himself at risk for another concussion, just as a precaution.
“I know what we signed up for — it’s a physical game, that’s part of it,” DeVito said. “At the same time, I can come back from a knee injury and an Achilles’ injury but concussions start changing who you are, and with the effects you can have immediately and down the line, you have to think about it. I was blessed to go however long without any, then I had two in same year. If it’s just me, my decision is probably different.”
But again, he has his family — he and his wife have a 2-year-old son, Rocco, and are expecting another child — to think about, and in the end, that won out, just like it did for Chiefs safety Husain Abdullah, who retired in March at 30 years old after suffering five concussions during his career.
DeVito is coming off a productive season with the Chiefs. He appeared in 13 games, starting five, and recorded 19 tackles and a career-high three sacks while providing his usual steady run defense. He was a free agent before his retirement, but the 2015 season will go down as a solid end to his career after an Achilles’ injury in 2014 that forced him to miss 15 games.
“These guys getting faster and faster every year — you look at that defensive line in Kansas City, I remember thinking last year that I don’t know how much longer I have left because they’re getting so fast and so good,” DeVito said. “That’s an incredible room. I’m gonna miss it, but those guys are playing at another level.”
The Chiefs have depth on the defensive line with Dontari Poe, Jaye Howard, Allen Bailey, Nick Williams and 2015 late-round pick Rakeem Nunez-Roches, but could also explore defensive line help early in the draft, which starts April 28.
DeVito, who was listed at 6-foot-3 and 305 pounds, made his debut with the New York Jets in 2007. He spent six seasons with them before signing a three-year, $12.6 million free-agent deal with the Chiefs in 2013.
In his three years with the Chiefs, DeVito appeared in 28 games, starting 19, and recorded 48 tackles, three sacks and two pass deflections. Along the way, he overcame the Achilles’ injury to become a regular contributor again and it looked like he would continue his career, but he simply had a change of heart, and decided to go out on top.
“That was the biggest thing coming back from the injury — I wanted one more year to prove to myself I could go out and still play, and I feel like I did it,” DeVito said. “At some point, you’re going back just to prolong the inevitable. My wife asked me — ‘Are you afraid to stop doing this or are you ready to put it in for another year?’ When you starting weighing that stuff, you start realizing that this is the right decision.
“I don’t want to cheat the game, I don’t want to put anything out I’m not proud of and put something out there that’s not my best product. On the defensive line, guys don’t gradually get worse — you lose it quick.”
In his farewell, DeVito singled out his friendship with linebacker Derrick Johnson. The players each suffered season-ending Achilles’ injuries in the 2014 regular-season opener and spent the rest of that season rehabilitating together.
“The brotherhood that was built together in our first game back, battling through adversity together, and the lessons I learned from one of the greatest leaders I have ever been around are priceless,” DeVito wrote.
DeVito is not sure what his next step is, but he said he recently spoke to Chiefs general manager John Dorsey, who advised him to find his passion in retirement.
“He said, ‘Don’t just do something because you want to do something — figure out what you’re passionate about,’” DeVito said. “So that’s what I’m going to do.”
The Star’s Blair Kerkhoff contributed to this story.
Terez A. Paylor: @TerezPaylor.