For nearly a decade, the Ravens knew they could count on Jarret Johnson.
The outside linebacker was as consistent as anyone on Baltimore's roster, playing in a then franchise-record 129-straight games during his nine seasons in Baltimore. The hard-nosed defender became a fan favorite as the Ravens' ironman, and he also grew to love the franchise that drafted him as a fourth-round pick in 2003.
"Baltimore was home," Johnson told BaltimoreRavens.com Tuesday night.
Even when Johnson left in free agency to join the San Diego Chargers in 2011, he still viewed himself as a Raven for life.
And that's why after calling it a career after 12 NFL seasons, Johnson will retire a Raven. Johnson officially announced his retirement from the NFL last week, and the Ravens plan to invite him to return to Baltimore this offseason to sign a ceremonial one-day contract.
"It would be an honor to retire a Raven," Johnson said. "Even when we weren't there, we were always pulling for them, always wanting the best for them, always wanting to see them succeed. It was always home."
Johnson's impact on the Ravens was felt throughout his run as a key member of the defense – the Ravens never finished outside the top 10 in total defense during his time in Baltimore – and he was reminded of that impact after so many former teammates and coaches reached out when he decided to retire.
He's talked with General Manager Ozzie Newsome, Head Coach John Harbaugh and a number of old teammates like Terrell Suggs, Haloti Ngata and Marshal Yanda.
"All the response and feedback that I've gotten from all the former teammates, coaches and fans has been awesome. It's been a really good week for me," he said.
"I expected it to be 50-50. I thought some wouldn't really care and some would think it would be cool. It was overwhelming extremely positive about me retiring and wanting me to come back and be a part of Baltimore. It's been awesome."
Johnson maintained his connection to Baltimore the last three years through his relationships with people still with the Ravens. He said that his three seasons with the Chargers were incredibly positive – "They were extremely good to me and gave me a home" – but he never lost that connection to Baltimore.
Even as a member of the Chargers, the Ravens-Steelers matchups were appointment viewing when he didn't have a game of his own. Johnson still remembers watching a Ravens-Steelers game coming back from a road game in Denver, and he didn't have any problem showing his allegiances.
"I'm over there getting all into it, and they're like 'Be quiet.' I was always a fan," Johnson joked. "One of my favorite games to watch was Ravens-Steelers."
Johnson, 33, will now head into the next phase of his life considering different options that he may pursue. He and his wife, Anna, plan to put much of their attention into raising their two young daughters, and he also just wants to spend some time just relaxing after a 12-year run in the NFL.
"I think the relationships are what you take most away from the game. My time in Baltimore, and San Diego, I built some great relationships," Johnson said. "I think about the amount of fun that we had playing the game that we all loved, and all of the good guys that I got to be around that were warriors on the field."
The former Ravens linebacker retired after 12 NFL seasons, including nine in Baltimore.