Future TV analyst has last word

DENVER -- Shannon Sharpe always had something to say during a record-setting NFL career that spanned 14 seasons. He wasn't about to clam up Thursday when he formally announced his retirement.

"I've always liked to talk and it's who I am," said Sharpe, who is leaving the Denver Broncos to become a member "The NFL Today" show on CBS. "I've always had something to say and knew what I was talking about."

Owner Pat Bowlen took a more serious approach to the loss of a player Denver drafted in the seventh round out of Savannah State in 1990.

"What do you say about the greatest tight end to ever play football?" Bowlen said. "I don't think there is any dispute that Shannon is the best to have ever played that position.

"He was the conscience of this football team," Bowlen said. "In times when good things were happening and in turmoil, Shannon was always there to lead this team in many ways with what he said and what he did."

Sharpe, an eight-time Pro Bowl selection, won two Super Bowls with Denver and one with Baltimore during his career. He's the NFL's career leader in receptions (815) and yards (10,060) for tight ends, and last season he passed Jerry Smith for most touchdowns with 62. Overall, Sharpe ranks ninth in receptions and 21st in receiving yards.

Sharpe, who turns 36 this month, spent all but two of his 14 seasons with the Broncos. After two years with Baltimore, he returned to Denver in 2002 for the final two years in the NFL.

The Broncos have prepared themselves for the loss of Sharpe, signing free-agent tight ends Byron Chamberlain, Jed Weaver and O.J. Santiago and re-signing Patrick Hape. Three other tight ends are on the roster.

Sharpe surprised many of his teammates Thursday by showing up for an offseason workout session. During the session, he told his teammates he was prepared physically, but not mentally to return for another season.

"It's not a good time to retire. It's not a bad time to retire," Sharpe said. "It's just time."