Guard Alan Faneca announced his retirement Tuesday.
Ken Whisenhunt got up close to Alan Faneca for the majority of Faneca's 13-year NFL career, including the guard's prime with the Steelers and his final season last year with the Cardinals.
Reflecting Tuesday, when Faneca officially spread the word to the world he was retiring, Whisenhunt wasn't sure an offensive lineman could have been much better.
"He was a combination of a great football player but also his leadership and toughness and the way he worked in practice," the Cardinals' head coach said. "You talk about that position and you want to design the perfect player who has all those qualities, Alan is the best place to start."
Faneca's retirement was not a surprise. He talked openly during the season that 2010 could indeed be his last. Whisenhunt said before the league's labor situation prevented him from talking with players, he talked with Faneca a lot about the situation. The Cardinals wanted him to return in 2011 and let him know that right after the season, knowing he was likely leaning the other way.
Faneca acknowledged as much during a Sirius radio interview Tuesday, saying he had basically made up his mind a month ago but decided not to say anything until after the draft so as to not scuttle any potential draft plans the Cards may have had to take an offensive lineman.
The Cards ended up not taking a lineman anyway, although Whisenhunt reiterated Faneca's choice was not a surprise and that it was one of the offseason scenarios for which the Cards have planned.
"I talked to him before the league year ended and I knew it was a possibility," Whisenhunt said. "I know a player who has played for as long as he has, they know what it takes to gear up for a season. You don't want to rush him into a decision, but I knew this could potentially happen.
"It is part of the plans … but we knew that Alan, at best, had one more year, so we were preparing for that happening anyway. Like we have said all along, when we have our opportunity to address it, we will address it. But from a personal standpoint, it's tough to see a guy with whom you have been through the battles before not come back. The thing that bothers me the most is that he didn't get a chance to go out on a better note."
For the time being, veteran Rex Hadnot would figure to plug into Faneca's left guard spot, although with so much left to be sorted in the offseason, depth charts don't mean much right now. Fellow 2010 interior starters, center Lyle Sendlein and right guard Deuce Lutui, also have contracts that are expiring.
Faneca, who started all 16 games for the Cards in 2010, made nine Pro Bowls after being drafted by the Steelers in 1998. He admitted on Sirius the notion of not being a player was simply weird.
After playing football since the fourth grade, "it's like, are you even allowed to think about not playing football, because you've been doing it for so long?" Faneca said. "You definitely go down memory lane."
Whisenhunt was doing his own reminiscing Tuesday.
"Unfortunately I haven't been able to talk to him, but I read somewhere he was living a dream to have played this long," Whisenhunt said. "He's looking at it from his perspective but what he doesn't see is what everyone around him has seen all those years, that he was made to do this. This is what his calling was, and not many people get a chance to do what they were meant to be doing."
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