Linebacker Christian Kirksey made the decision to retire from the NFL on Thursday, September 21, just three weeks after he first signed with the Buffalo Bills practice squad. While the decision came as surprise, it’s safe to say the 2023 NFL season wasn’t exactly going as planned for nine-year veteran.
Kirksey, who signed a two-year, $10 million extension with the Houston Texans last year, “entered training camp as a lock to make the Texans’ 53-man roster,” SI’s Coty M. Davis wrote. “But a few days into camp, the veteran linebacker sustained an injured hamstring. The injury forced Kirksey to miss nearly a month, which included all three preseason games.”
While the former Walter Payton Man of Year candidate recovered from a strained hamstring before signing with Buffalo, and seemed like a prime candidate to be elevated to the 53-man roster, his spot on the practice squad looked to be permanent after the season started. Kirksey, however, is leaving Buffalo on good terms.
In retirement, he’ll be able to spend more time with his wife, Kendra Kirksey, and their two children, Aria and Christian. Following her husband’s announcement, Kendra posted several photos of Kirksey on Instagram, along with an emotional message of support.
She wrote, “To say I’m proud would be an understatement. Seeing all of the things God has done for you and through you has been absolutely incredible. You have accomplished so much over the past 9 years!! You are an inspiration to so many people. Your character, dedication, your heart and your love for your family, friends, teammates and fans is undeniable.
“We all love you so much and I’m so honored to be able to call you my husband. Congratulations on your retirement babe!! I cannot wait to see all of the blessings God has in store for you ❤️🙌🏽🏈.”
Sean McDermott Called Christian Kirksey a ‘Class Act’ & Wished Him Well
While there was excitement for the 31-year-old to compete for the middle linebacker position, PFF’s Brad Spielberger called Buffalo the “perfect landing spot for Kirksey,” second-year linebacker Terrel Bernard earned the starting role and has performed well enough to keep it. Therefore, Bills head coach Sean McDermott understood why Kirksey hung up his cleats for good.
“He’s a class act and he made us better while he was here,” McDermott said during a press conference on Thursday, calling his mentorship of Bernard during the short time he was in Buffalo “invaluable.”
“I certainly understand his situation. He’s played, he’s used to playing, and he obviously has his reasons for it, and I respect him for it,” McDermott continued. “He’s all class. I heard so many good things about him before he came here. We tried to get him a few times before, I think via free agency, and he went elsewhere, but I just wish we could’ve gotten him maybe a little bit earlier in his career. I appreciate all he brought to us and the time and the sacrifice while he was here.”
As McDermott mentioned, Buffalo hosted Kirksey for a workout in March 2020, however, the linebacker went on to sign a two-year, $16 million contract with the Green Bay Packers. With Kirksey gone, the Bills brought brought back veteran A.J. Klein.
Christian Kirksey Shared a Personal Thank You Note Following His Retirement
The Cleveland Browns former third-round pick from the 2014 NFL Draft said thank you to all the teams he’s played for and his family, in a retirement announcement posted on Instagram.
He wrote in part, “As an athlete you never think the time will come to an end until it does. Humbly I am officially retiring from the NFL. It has been an unbelievable journey fulfilling my childhood dreams of one day making it to the NFL… To all the wonderful people that I’ve met on this journey, I am forever grateful and truly blessed to have crossed paths!”
Bills safety Jordan Poyer reposted Kirksey’s message on his Instagram Stories and wrote, “One of the best teammates I’ve ever had. Congratulations brother!”
During his NFL career, the Iowa alum appeared in 114 games and recorded 778 total tackles, seven interceptions, six fumble recoveries, and 33 quarterback hits.