Zach Strief says Saints career 'exceeded my wildest imagination' –

From Drew Brees, Cameron Jordan, Mark Ingram and Thomas Morstead to Bobby Hebert, Steve Gleason and Deuce McAllister, current and former New Orleans Saints players filled the media room at the team’s training facility to honor and celebrate one of their own. 

Zach Strief announced his retirement during a press conference Monday (March 12) after spending his entire 12-year career with the Saints.

The right tackle appeared in 158 regular-season games with 93 starts, a mark that ranks as the 11th-most games played by a Saint in team history and third-most among offensive linemen. Additionally, Strief appeared in 10 playoff games, which ranks second in team history, and started four of the postseason contests. 

Not bad for a player selected in 2006 as a seventh-round NFL Draft pick (210th overall) out of Northwestern.

“My career here has exceeded my wildest imagination,” Strief said. “I didn’t think this was going to last through my first August, let alone 12 years. 

“My admiration for the New Orleans Saints organization has grown daily throughout my career. Thank you to everyone who has played a role in it; it certainly was not accomplished alone.” 

Strief balanced a good sense of humor and raw emotions as he lavished praise on former teammates, coaches, training staff, team media relations, family and friends. 

But he held special gratitude for coach Sean Payton, who sat to Strief’s immediate right during the press conference. 

“You had more to do with me getting an opportunity here than anyone else,” Strief told Payton. “You took a chance on me when no one else would. Your faith in me has changed my life forever.” 

Strief appeared in nine games as a rookie and spent the first part of his career as a valuable backup while learning behind Jon Stinchcomb. 

He became the starter at right tackle after Stinchcomb retired in 2010, and then went on to start 87 games from 2011 to 2017 for one of the NFL’s top offensive units, while also serving an offensive team captain five times. 

Strief suffered a knee injury early in 2017 and only played in two games before landing on injured reserve, but a large part of the Saints’ offensive success since 2011 is attributed to Strief’s performance at right tackle. 

“I think that it’s very easy to say he overachieved in his career,” Payton said. “I would say what he’s been able to do with his strength, his size, his experience and all of those things, he became one of the best right tackles in our game in the last five years.

“I mean, consistent. You knew what you were getting and the value, you can’t overstate that enough.” 

General Manager Mickey Loomis, who sat to Strief’s left, echoed Payton on what the offensive tackle has meant to the organization. 

And Loomis pointed out how rare it is for a player such as Strief to go out after a 12-year career with the same team that drafted him. 

“This is unique because we get a chance to celebrate a player who spent more than 10 years with our team, and then even more unique beyond that it’s a guy who was drafted and spent his entire career with one team,” Loomis said. “I think there’s only three other guys that have had more than 10 years — same team — in that category for the Saints. And so, this is a pretty special day.” 

For his part, Strief admits he contemplated retirement last year but elected to hold back because of the uncertainty on the roster. 

“One of the things I kept thinking about last year was there was no clear replacement on the roster,” Strief said. “And I knew if I was at home watching TV and Drew (Brees) was getting hit and I felt like I could’ve helped, I wouldn’t have been able to live with myself.” 

The emergence of Ryan Ramcyzk, however, helped pave the way for Strief to decide his future. 

Ramczyk, the Saints’ second of two first-round picks in 2017, played every offensive snap the past season and filled in admirably at right tackle. 

And with the passing of the torch from established veteran to a young replacement, Strief knew the time had arrived. 

“It’s much easier knowing that there’s someone there that’s going to play at a high level for them, so this is all Ryan Ramczyk’s fault,” Strief joked.

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