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Former Utes standout Jordan Gross to announce NFL retirement Wednesday

By Steve Reed

Associated Press

Published: Tuesday, Feb. 25 2014 12:05 p.m. MST

Carolina Panthers' Jordan Gross is introduced before an NFL football game against the Atlanta Falcons on Sunday, Dec. 9, 2012, in Charlotte, N.C.

Rainier Ehrhardt, Associated Press

Enlarge photo»

CHARLOTTE, N.C. — Panthers offensive tackle Jordan Gross is saying goodbye to the NFL after 11 seasons.

The Panthers confirmed Tuesday the three-time Pro Bowl left tackle will announce his retirement at a news conference on Wednesday at the stadium.

"Jordan has been a great Panther and he will be missed," Panthers general manager Dave Gettleman said Tuesday in a text message.

Gross, 33, was a first-round pick out of the University of Utah by Carolina in 2003 and started 167 games — all for the Panthers. He went to his third Pro Bowl this past season as an alternate.

Gross' contract had expired with the Panthers this offseason, but there was still some question as to whether he might agree to return with a new contract. He went on vacation with his family last week in Utah to contemplate whether or not to retire.

Gross told the team's website, Panthers.com, that it was the right time to step away.

"I've played a lot of football here, and I've seen a lot of guys come and a lot of guys go," Gross told the website. "Sometimes it ends well for guys, and sometimes it is not the ending they were looking for.

He said he didn't want to leave until the team was in good position for sustained success.

"The team is there now," Gross said. "There is good, young leadership, there are talented players, and there are guys that really want to work hard and want to win."

Teammate Greg Olsen said he spoke to Gross about the decision recently and half-jokingly tried to convince him to return.

But he said Gross had his mind made up.

"He's such a great player and I'm really happy for him," Olsen said. "When I talked to him, I know he feels good not only about his body of work and his career, but also the impact he had on this organization. He was always a stand-up guy. He has the respect of all of his teammates. He's the type of guy you want if you're an NFL franchise."

Gross joined the Panthers in 2003 and stepped right in as a starter, helping Carolina reach the Super Bowl as a rookie. However, Gross spent the next 10 years trying to get back, but the Panthers could never make it past the NFC championship game.

The decision creates a void for the Panthers at left tackle.

Olsen said it will be difficult to replace Gross after the Panthers went 12-4 this past season, but said young players will have to step up.

"Jordan has been top notch for his whole career," Olsen said. "He's tough to lose. But every year it happens around the league — you lose players to retirement or injury. You have to move on and fill that role."

Wide receiver and former Ute Steve Smith is the only remaining player from Carolina's lone Super Bowl team that lost 32-29 to the New England Patriots on a last-second field goal by Adam Vinatieri.

Gross' current and former teammates immediately took to Twitter to comment on the news.

Said Smith: "Since 1999 until 2day @J2theGross and I have been in same huddle. Today its has stopped I salute JG, great player better man!!! Love ya."

Said Panthers defensive end Charles Johnson: "One of the best to ever play in a panther jersey. I wish he would stay but you gotta do what u gotta."

Offensive lineman Geoff Schwartz, a former teammate of Gross with the Panthers, wrote that Gross "was an outstanding mentor and I'm so thankful he decided to help me when I was a young naive rookie."

AP NFL website: www.pro32.ap.org and http://twitter.com/AP_NFL

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