ORCHARD PARK, N.Y. (AP) — Defensive tackle Kyle Williams is retiring at age 35 after 13 seasons, a decision that leaves the Buffalo Bills without their most respected leader and longest-active tenured player.
Buffalo's season finale against Miami on Sunday will be his last game, he said Friday.
"This isn't easy. It was never going to be," he said on the team's Twitter account. "There's no perfect time to retire from a game, a franchise and a city that means so much to me and my family. But it's time to hang up my cleats."
He closed his statement by saying: "I could not be more grateful to retire as a lifelong Buffalo Bill. One last time, I'll see you on the field on Sunday."
His announcement comes two days after he was noncommittal about his career beyond this season.
"Just trying to finish the season out strong, trying to help these guys get better. So I try not to dive too far into it," he said then. "Anything like that will be handled at the appropriate time."
Coach Sean McDermott said Williams informed him of his decision Monday. McDermott briefly became emotional when discussing what Williams has meant to him and the team.
"You can't replace a guy like Kyle that comes around once in a career for all of us," McDermott said. "He's a guy that personifies what we want to be about as Buffalo Bills."
Williams briefly considered retiring after the 2016 season before returning to play after McDermott was hired. He then signed a one-year contract this past March after the Bills reached the playoffs to end a 17-season drought.
Williams' retirement creates a large void for the Bills both on and off the field. And it comes 11 months after Buffalo lost another influential leader, when center Eric Wood was forced to retire after sustaining a career-ending neck injury.
On the field, Williams has shown no signs of losing a step.
Williams was drafted out of LSU in the fifth round in 2006. Out of 954 defensive plays through 15 games, he is second among Bills defensive linemen in playing 621 of them — four fewer than pass-rusher Jerry Hughes.
He has five sacks to match his total last year, and the most since Williams had 5 1/2 in 2014. And his 13 quarterback hits and five tackles for a loss match last year's totals while playing on a defense that's jumped from finishing 26th in yards allowed last season to currently ranking second.
"You never want to be someone that is falling way off or dragging a leg out there," he said. "I've got a very high standard for the way I want to do things."
On Friday, Williams spoke fondly of how much he and his wife have enjoyed Buffalo.
"I never lived outside of Louisiana when Jill and I moved here at 22 years old, but it didn't take me long to identify with this city, with its people, with their attitude and their loyalty," he said.
"This place celebrates grit as much as it does talent and there's something to be said for that," Williams added. "Now I'm leaving at 35 with five kids calling Buffalo my home. It's just not like everywhere else, and it will always be a part of me."
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