Bucs cornerback Martin Mayhew retired Wednesday, saying it was a perfect chance for him to start anew.
The Bucs had hoped to re-sign Mayhew, a nine-year veteran who played with Washington before signing with the Bucs in 1993. The tentative plan was to have Mayhew start most, if not all, of the season until third-round draft choice Ronde Barber was ready to assume the role.
Mayhew, 31, began looking at retirement shortly before the draft for personal and professional reasons. He set his plans Tuesday and informed Bucs officials Wednesday.
"This allows them the time to make some moves and do what they have to do to be competitive," Mayhew said. "It's not a hasty, emotional decision. I didn't make it out of anger or anything like that. I've given it a lot of thought."
General manager Rich McKay said Mayhew's decision did not come as a surprise.
"He had been talking about it for the last three months," McKay said. "He's made a lot of money over the last four years, and he has always wanted to go back to law school. I can't say it's a shock, but we're disappointed.
"We would have liked to have had Martin back in the locker room. He was with us through some tough years and he always gave us great effort, great leadership. Martin's a great guy."
Family considerations were a major factor in Mayhew's decision. He recently returned to the Washington, D.C., area, purchasing a home in Vienna, Va., and his wife gave birth to a baby girl June 1.
"That was a big part of it," Mayhew said of his family. "I've reached a point where I just feel very comfortable. I just bought a new house, I just had a baby.
"My life has changed because of the baby, so it's a convenient time to make the switch."
Professionally, Mayhew said the offers he received from the Bucs were below his expectations, and because a number of young cornerbacks were on the free-agent market, he did not draw high interest from other teams.
Mayhew said he did not want to discuss specifics of his talks with the Bucs, but said "if I was going to be the starter, I wanted to be compensated competitively."
Mayhew has been a starter in the NFL since his second season with the Redskins in 1990. Drafted by Buffalo in 1988 as a 10th-round pick out of Florida State, Mayhew signed with Washington as a Plan B free agent in 1989. He helped the Redskins win the 1992 Super Bowl and from 1990 to 1992, he led the National Football Conference in interceptions with 13.
Mayhew signed a four-year, $5.3-million contract with the Bucs in the spring of 1993. He started 59 out of 64 games in four seasons, producing eight interceptions and 49 passes defensed.
In 1993, he had a career-high 18 passes defensed. In 1995, his last-second interceptions against Washington and Jacksonville preserved wins, and his 78-yard fumble return for a touchdown helped the team upset Minnesota.
At nearly every stop in his career, Mayhew has overachieved. At FSU, he shared time with Eric Williams _ opposite Deion Sanders _ and was surprised to get an invitation to the NFL scouting combine. He never played in Buffalo because of a wrist injury, but still drew Washington's interest.
"When I get sad about it (retiring), I just think about all I've accomplished," Mayhew said. "I've really been fortunate."
After a Super Bowl ring, a lucrative contract and a solid and healthy conclusion in Tampa, Mayhew said he's ready to move on. He has re-enrolled in law school at Georgetown.
"All I've been doing since I've been an adult is playing football," said Mayhew, who hopes to go into the management side of the NFL. "It's all I really know how to do. It's difficult to step away from that, knowing I have an opportunity to still play.
"I wouldn't absolutely rule it out, but the possibility of me changing my mind is very unlikely."
McKay said the loss of Mayhew does not necessarily mean the Bucs will seek a replacement, but he said it's possible they will bring in a few veterans and "maybe even sign one of them."
Martin Mayhew career stats
Year Team G/S ST A TT S I/Yds FF FR PD
1988 Buffalo On injured reserve
1989 Washington 16/7 41 6 47 NA 0/0 0 0 6
1990 Washington 16/15 84 20 104 NA 7/20 0 0 10
1991 Washington 16/16 78 30 108 NA 3/31 2 1 16
1992 Washington 10/10 45 17 62 NA 3/58 0 1 10
1993 Tampa Bay 15/14 48 28 76 NA 0/0 2 0 18
1994 Tampa Bay 16/16 58 11 69 NA 2/4 0 1 9
1995 Tampa Bay 13/13 58 17 75 NA 5/81 1 1 16
1996 Tampa Bay 16/16 61 16 77 1 1/5 2 0 6
Total 118/107 473 145 618 4 21/199 7 4 91
Key _ G/S: games/starts; ST: solo tackles; A: assists; TT: total tackles; S: sacks; I/Yds: interceptions/yards; FF: fumbles forced; FR: fumbles recovered; PD: passes defensed.