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Former First-Round Pick Peria Jerry Retires After 5-Year Career with Falcons

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Matt FitzgeraldCorrespondent IIIJuly 31, 2014

Atlanta Falcons defensive tackle Peria Jerry, who was the No. 24 overall pick in the 2009 NFL draft, has decided to retire from the NFL after five seasons.   

The Falcons' official Twitter account confirmed Jerry's decision on Thursday:

NFL salary-cap expert Brian McIntyre highlighted how injuries impacted Jerry's shortened NFL career:

According to ESPN.com's Vaughn McClure, Jerry was playing through a toe injury for all of the 2013 season and also suffered a sprained PCL in the regular-season finale. Jerry missed all but two games of his rookie campaign with a knee injury, too.

When he re-signed to a one-year deal to stay in Atlanta this offseason, it appeared Jerry was in good spirits ahead of the upcoming year.

"Whatever happens, happens," said Jerry, per The Atlanta Journal-Constitution's D. Orlando Ledbetter. "You (don’t) have any control over that. Really, we are just playing it by ear to see what happens. There is nothing that you can do about it. That’s the people upstairs' decision...I started here and would love to stay here."

For someone who exuded so much promise, it's a shame that Jerry never quite recovered from the injury that cut his rookie year short. Jerry finished with 67 combined tackles, 5.5 sacks, three passes defended and one forced fumble in 64 games (h/t NFL.com).

Although Jerry started 14 of 16 games last season, he was part of a banged-up defense that ranked 31st in the league against the run.

General manager Thomas Dimitroff elected to select Minnesota product Ra'Shede Hageman in the second round of the 2014 draft. Hageman is a versatile, supremely athletic defensive tackle who will be asked to contribute even more in light of Jerry's retirement.

The Falcons are coming off a 4-12 season just one year after they made the NFC title game. A lot of their problems stemmed from an inability to run the ball or stop the run. Coach Mike Smith is known for defense, so he has to be looking forward to seeing how Hageman can operate in Atlanta's scheme.

As tough as it has to be for Jerry to walk away from the game he made a living out of, he at least did his best to grind through health issues to play as long as he felt physically capable. Some may regard him as a bust, but Jerry's talent and medical circumstances ought not to put that negative label on him.

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