There was only one player on the Cincinnati Bengals' entire roster of players who had previously appeared in a Super Bowl leading into their battle with the Los Angeles Rams at SoFi Stadium, and it was Ricardo Allen. But after narrowly missing out on his second shot at grasping a Lombardi trophy, the longtime NFL safety is calling it a career and will not return to the league for the 2022 season -- instead announcing his retirement roughly three weeks ahead of free agency.

Allen, 30, retires at a young age by NFL standards, adding to a growing trend that might also claim the career of All-Pro pass rusher and now Super Bowl champion Aaron Donald. For Allen, it's about turning his focus to what awaits him post-football -- primarily his family -- making this point just as clear in an Instagram post as the gratitude he has for those who helped him along the way.

"I've always wondered how it would feel giving up what most people would consider to be 'most of me', and that's being a professional athlete. But, the truth is, I'm blessed to be able to say that it's been good. It could have been better with two Super Bowl rings, but who's complaining? Not me. 

"Dear, football career -- I'm grateful for you, and I'm thankful for the opportunity you gave me to turn nothing but hard work into the foundation of a growing legacy. You've shown me it's not about how you start; it's about how you finish. Figuratively speaking for all the smart asses. You've taught me the true meaning of the Ying/Yang of life -- the good, the bad. It's all relative.

"Embrace the obstacle in front of you as another obstacle to conquer and grow, because honestly, what's life without a fight? Or something to fight for? I'm blessed to be able to take the cleats off on my terms with a true burning love for the game and pretty cool opportunities within reach. The truth is, I've only scratched the surface of who I am and what I have to offer. I am grateful for the time that I was able to strap on the helmet and go to war with my brothers (and for being able to put it on someone every now and then). 

'I know I will miss that, but I also know that I love my family, and I owe this life to them. Knowing that I devoted all of my time, energy, blood, sweat and tears to my craft and enjoyed the grind that came with it, I am ready to take all of this knowledge and to help guide the next generation of men to achieve their goals, while ultimately, we all achieve our goals together.

"To the Falcons organization, thank you for a great seven years. To the Bengals organization -- WOW, what a year and I can't wait to see what's coming out of there in the next years to come. To all my boys out there, I love you guys! But, just know... when you see me on the other side with the headset on, I'm throwing that sh-t deep!



"P.S. Y'all better not call me coach."

The tone of Allen's IG letter was as lighthearted and fun as it was serious, the latter being about a future that he intimates might either involve coaching or broadcasting (hint: headset). After starting his NFL career as a fifth-round pick of the Atlanta Falcons in 2014, Allen worked his way to the starting role in North Georgia after having made a name for himself at Purdue. Allen started for the Falcons in Super Bowl LI against the Patriots. In his six seasons with the Falcons, he started 76 games and grabbed 11 interceptions to go along with 340 combined tackles. 

He went on to sign a one-year deal with the Bengals in 2021, and used his prior Super Bowl experience to help lead the organization to its first since the 1988 season. When he cleaned out his NFL locker on Feb. 14, it marked the final time he'd ever do so.