PHILADELPHIA (AP) _ Jeremiah Trotter, one of the fiery leaders of the Philadelphia Eagles defense for much of the last decade, was released Tuesday in a surprise move that may lead to his retirement.
Trotter, a four-time Pro Bowl selection at middle linebacker in two stints with the team, learned of the decision in a meeting with Eagles coach Andy Reid on Monday night that both men described as emotional.
``It's a tough pill to swallow, but everyone gets to this point in their career at some point or another, and now is my time,'' the 30-year-old Trotter said at a news conference. ``I'm just thankful that I spent this many years in Philadelphia. I truly believe that if you were to cut me, I'd bleed green.''
With his hard hits and emotional play, including the ax-swing he would pantomime after big plays, Trotter was a crowd favorite in Philadelphia.
``Jeremiah Trotter will go down as one of the all-time greats in Philadelphia Eagles history,'' Reid said. ``He's a top-notch person.''
His release before roster cuts will give Trotter a chance to catch on with another team _ if he doesn't choose to retire.
``This keeps his options open here where he's not officially retired,'' Reid said. ``If he chooses to go to another team, he can. If he choose to retire, he can.''
Trotter said he has not yet made a decision.
``I still believe that I have a couple good years left. But, everyone thinks that when it's time to go,'' he said with a laugh.
This is the second time Trotter has been cut loose by the Eagles, although this time his departure is on much friendlier terms.
Trotter was franchised by the team following the 2001 season and complained about the move. When the Eagles withdrew the tag, he signed with the Redskins and spent two seasons in Washington before patching up his relationship with Reid over the phone and signing a one-year contract in 2004.
After starting that season as a special teams player, Trotter took over as the starting middle linebacker and earned a Pro Bowl spot while helping to lead the Eagles to the Super Bowl, where they lost to the New England Patriots. He had been the starter in the middle ever since.
While Trotter's future is uncertain, the identity of his replacement is not.
Second-year linebacker Omar Gaither had been expected to see increased playing time spelling Trotter, but will instead be the starter.
Gaither credited Trotter's support for making his transition to the starting job easier.
``I think in a lot of places with a lot of people, it could have been completely different,'' Gaither said.
Safety Brian Dawkins, the longest-serving player on the team, called Trotter's departure a blow.
``This one hit me like a ton of bricks,'' the safety said. ``No matter how many years you play, it's always hard when you lose someone like that, that you've come in contact and gotten so close with.''