Former Bengals kicker Shayne Graham is retiring from the NFL.
The longtime veteran made the call to hang up his cleats after 15 seasons in the league, much of which were spent in Cincinnati, where he now admits he experienced the best days of his life as an NFL kicker.
“One of the great regrets I have in my career is that I didn’t realize how good I had it in Cincinnati,” Graham told Bengals.com. “There was a time I fooled myself into thinking there were other things more important than what they were. I lost grasp of what true reality was. When I look back on it I feel like I could have been there a lot longer if I made different decisions. But think it made me a better person, made me a better professional.”
Graham was present for the Bengals’ Legends Weekend this year, at a time during which he wasn't employed and then Bengals kicker Mike Nugent was struggling greatly. But, Graham didn't see a reunion as a possibility with his former team. “They were looking to go with someone they thought could be around for more than a couple of years,” he said.
“I hope he’s there for seven years, too,” Graham added about Randy Bullock, who ended up taking over for Nugent and is someone Graham works out with during the offseason.
After going undrafted in the 2000 NFL Draft, Graham signed with the New Orleans Saints before being waived during final cuts. it was a repeat the next year when Graham was signed by the Seattle Seahawks, only to be waived during final cuts.
After a brief stint with the Buffalo Bills in 2001 and Carolina Panthers from 2002-03, the Bengals claimed Graham off waivers in September of 2003 after Carolina discarded him.
From there, he would go on to become the most accurate kicker in franchise history. In 2005, Graham made 28-of-32 field goals (87.5%), scored a franchise record 131 points, was selected to be the kicker for the AFC Pro Bowl team, and helped the Bengals record their first winning season since 1990. Graham also became the first kicker in franchise history ever to be selected to a Pro Bowl.
In 2007, Graham set a Bengals record by kicking 21 consecutive field goals without a miss over the season's first 10 games. This included a game against the Baltimore Ravens where he set a franchise record by kicking seven field goals (the second highest total in NFL history).
But things would go south for Graham in 2009, when he went 23-of-28 in the regular season, the lowest percentage (82.1%) in his Bengals career. Things got worse in the Wild Card playoffs, where Graham missed two field goals in the Bengals' 24–14 loss to the New York Jets, including a 28-yard attempt that would have cut the score to 24–17 late in the fourth quarter.
That led to him not being re-signed the following offseason, triggering him to bounce around the league for the next six seasons before calling it quits after not catching on with a team this past season.
Graham intends to seek out a special team's coaching job to begin the next chapter of his life.