LAKE FOREST | There comes the time when every pro athlete must walk away from the game he loves.
Friday, it was Patrick Mannelly's turn.
The long-snapper and fan favorite, who played his entire 16-year NFL career with the Bears, announced his retirement Friday.
"It has been an honor to be a Bear and represent them for my career," he said. "But my body's tapping me on the back and saying, 'That's it, bud, you're done.' ''
Added Bears' Chairman George H. McCaskey: “It’s difficult to talk about Patrick as a player in the past tense. Every season, every game, he was a pro’s pro. He was a captain, someone his teammates looked up to and sought guidance, direction and inspiration, and he provided it.
“Our family is very grateful for all he has done. Not just for the way he’s played on the field, but the way he has carried himself off the field. He’s the epitome of what a Chicago Bear is all about. We’ll miss having him in uniform.”
No one in the history of the Bears organization has worn the team’s blue and orange uniform longer than Mannelly, who holds the team’s career records in games played (245) and seasons played (16).
He was a model of excellence throughout his career as one of the NFL’s top specialists. He was a part of four division championships (2001, 2005, 2006, 2010), an NFC Championship (2006) and appeared in seven playoff contests -- including two NFC title games.
His 245 games played are tied for 43rd most in NFL history.
Mannelly was selected by Chicago in the sixth round (189th overall) of the 1998 NFL Draft out of Duke University. He immediately took over the long-snapping duties as a rookie and pulled the trigger on 2,282 long-snap attempts during his NFL career.
He contributed to the Bears setting an NFL record for most consecutive unblocked punts (920) and games without a blocked punt (180) from Nov. 28 of 1991 to Dec. 29, 2002.
One of the league’s top coverage long-snappers, Mannelly notched 81 career special teams tackles, third-most by a Bears player since 1995 when the statistic was first officially recorded.
“Although I have deep respect for Pat’s decision, I’m saddened by it because we are going to lose an extremely high-level leader who had an impact on our team,” Bears General Manager Phil Emery said. “Not only from his excellent performance on the field over a very long, sustained and historical amount of time, but in all areas of our team.
"It starts with his leadership in the locker room and him reaching out to other players who need help, to all the work he has done in the community, and the way he carried the Chicago Bears mantle.”
A symbol of durability, Mannelly appeared in all 16 contests during 12 of his 16 NFL seasons and saw action in at least 14 games in 15 of his 16 years with the team. He missed just 11 games during his NFL career.
His leadership has been displayed on and off the field, as Mannelly was voted by his teammates and coaches as the Bears special teams captain every year since 2008.