JACKSONVILLE, Fla. (AP) — Jacksonville Jaguars linebacker Telvin Smith, the team’s leading tackler the past two seasons and a Pro Bowl selection in 2017, is stepping away from football to “give this time back to myself, my family & my health.”
Smith made the announcement Thursday on Instagram, saying “at this time I must take time away from this game & get my world in order.”
“I appreciate all the support I will & will not get,” he added. “I just ask that y’all respect my decision to not play football this season.”
A fifth-round draft pick from Florida State in 2014, Smith has 586 total tackles with 445 solo tackles, nine interceptions, 7½ sacks and five forced fumbles in five seasons. He’s one of only 13 players in NFL history to make 100 or more tackles in each of their first five years in the league.
He signed a four-year, $45 million extension with Jacksonville in October 2017 that included $20 million guaranteed.
Smith had been skipping voluntary workouts and hadn’t returned calls from team officials, raising speculation that he could be on the trading block or on his way out in Jacksonville.
Personnel chief Tom Coughlin also took a not-so-subtle shot at Smith and cornerback Jalen Ramsey during the team’s state of the franchise presentation last month. Coughlin, the team’s executive vice president of football operations, said “championship teams are dominated by selfless individuals who recognize that the welfare of the team must always be paramount to any other consideration.”
Ramsey and Smith were the team’s only players who didn’t show up for the start of the team’s offseason program.
The Jaguars surely seemed to sense something was amiss regarding Smith. They signed former Green Bay starter Jake Ryan in free agency, drafted Murray State’s Quincy Williams in the third round — earlier than anticipated — and added five more linebackers in recent weeks.
“I know the rumors of trade talk came about, but I started my career in Jacksonville & the day I do decide to call it quits it will be right here in Duval,” Smith wrote.
The Jaguars declined to comment on Smith’s statement, saying “we need to have a conversation with Telvin to understand the situation and the circumstances.”
“If there is a way we can support him, we need to understand that,” the team added.