Saints' Zach Strief undecided on retirement after ACL repair

METAIRIE, La. -- Part of Zach Strief thinks he might be ready to retire after 12 seasons with the New Orleans Saints and a November surgery to repair his ACL and MCL.

“And then there’s part of you that says, ‘I don’t want to finish like that,’” Strief said Tuesday, referring to the 29-24 playoff loss at Minnesota that still had Saints players feeling a bit shell-shocked as they cleaned out their lockers for the season.

“As much time as you have [to think about it],” said Strief, who has been on injured reserve since October, “the finality of a season always kind of brings with it new feelings and different feelings. So I think it’s always something that you kind of take a couple weeks and get away from it completely and then make that decision.

“So I’ll take some time and talk with my wife, and we’re expecting our first child in a week. So we’ll kind of probably let that settle in for a little bit, and then I’ll make a decision after that.”

Strief, 34, said he was just talking to fellow veteran Max Unger on Monday about how it will never be easy to walk away.

“Sometimes when you’re in training camp and you’re in your 12th year, you’re like, ‘Man, this ridiculous. I’m tired of this.’ But the reality is that we all love some part of this game and there’s a part of that that’s just in us,” Strief said. “[But] when it is time, I will have no regrets. ... This [career] has gone on so much longer and so much better than I ever could have imagined. And the amount of gratitude I have for this organization and for the guys that I’ve gotten to play with, I couldn’t express to you guys. So when it’s time, it’s time, and I’ll move on. And I just don’t know yet if it’s now.”

Strief, who had one of the best seasons of his career in 2016 before being injured early in this past season, said he believes he can still come back and be physically ready to play.

“Obviously I’ve never recovered from an ACL injury,” Strief said. “So there’s obviously challenges with that, especially in your 12th year. But I felt like I was playing at a high level through training camp, and certainly last year I think was one of my better years. So I think physically it’s something that I could do. The reality of this job is that there’s as much mental preparation as physical, and I think the question will come down to more, ‘Am I mentally ready to do what’s necessary to play another season?’”

Strief’s role could also play a part in his decision. Rookie first-round draft pick Ryan Ramczyk replaced him at a high level as the Saints’ starting right tackle this year. And Terron Armstead is entrenched at left tackle. So Strief might be a valuable backup -- or he might just be a phone call away in case of a summer injury.