NASHVILLE, Tenn. —** Titans tight end Craig Stevens made a living crashing into defenders, and he loved it.
After eight NFL seasons, Stevens is ready to call it a career.
A third-round pick by the Titans in the 2008 NFL Draft, Stevens has decided to retire from the game. Stevens played 10 snaps in Saturday's preseason game against the Panthers, but he hasn't practiced since.
"Craig is a consummate pro," Titans head coach Mike Mularkey said. "I have enjoyed working with him as a position coach and as a head coach, and he was someone who could always be counted on. He worked at his craft and was always accountable for his play. The qualities we use to describe players here – Tough, Dependable, Team-First – those are the qualities Craig had as a player. There has been an ongoing discussion with Craig, and we wanted to give him time to reach the decision he thought was best for him and his family. We are proud to call him a Titan, and he is always welcome around this team. We wish him and his family the best in his next chapter of life."
Stevens signed a one-year deal with the Titans back in February. He told Titans Online at the time he didn't want to play anywhere else but in Tennessee.
"I am very fortunate they wanted me back, and I feel good,'' Stevens said in February. "I just try and play as hard as I can, and do the best I can. And when I can't play as hard as I can, I'll be done. But I am as strong as I've ever been, I have been working hard, and I feel good. I am really excited about this year."
Stevens enjoyed a solid offseason with the Titans.
In fact, Mularkey revealed last week he handed out Offseason Performer of the Year awards for exceptional work and commitment, and one of them went to Stevens. Mularkey gave Stevens a trophy, a day off of practice and many other perks, but Stevens refused to take a day.
Mularkey said Stevens was excused for personal reasons the past two days.
Not long after Titans general manager Jon Robinson was hired, he said Stevens got his attention after watching film.
"I knew of Craig and respected him, but after kind of digging into him more and seeing more of what he's all about, that is kind of why it was really a priority for us, to try and get him locked into staying here,'' Robinson said of Stevens. "Craig is a tough, competitive guy. I think he is still a really good athlete, and he scraps as a blocker,'' Robinson said of Stevens. "He really does a nice job.
Stevens spent all eight of his NFL seasons with the Titans. He played in 109 career games, with 72 starts.
Stevens played in all 16 games in 2015, with 11 starts, and he recorded 12 catches for 121 yards and two touchdowns. Stevens recorded 60 receptions for 724 yards and six touchdowns in his career.
Stevens was voted by his teammates as the recipient of the Ed Block Courage Award for his comeback from a leg injury in the 2014 season that limited him to five games.
Pro Bowler Delanie Walker returns for the Titans, along with 10-year veteran Anthony Fasano. Phillip Supernaw played in all 16 games for the Titans last season, and he's also in the mix. The offseason the Titans claimed Jerome Cunningham off waivers and signed Alex Ellis, who played at the University of Tennessee, as an undrafted free agent.
Titans Online looks back at the career of Titans tight end Craig Stevens. (Photos: Donn Jones, AP)