At the start of last season, Marshal Yanda genuinely thought his 2019 campaign could be his last.
Yanda was coming off a second surgery on his right shoulder, to the same spot. Grinding through that rehab was mentally tough, and even once he cleared that hurdle, he wasn't sure how it would hold up physically.
He took it one game at a time, and by Week 6, felt like he would make it the entire season. He started all 16 games and earned his seventh Pro Bowl trip, proving that at 34 years old, he was still at the top of the game at his position.
But the future certainly wasn't guaranteed.
"Last year, if I did end the season on IR, I probably was going to retire," Yanda said on “The Lounge” podcast.
"You don't want to push your body too much. I love this game and it's the reason I play it, because I really love doing it. But you don't want to get to that point where you're too beat up by the game."
Yanda signed a one-year contract extension a month ago, keeping him under contract through the 2020 season. More than anything, it formalized that he will suit up in 2019.
After watching Terrell Suggs go to Arizona this offseason following 16 seasons in purple and black, Yanda said he feels fortunate that he'll "have a chance to finish it here." He didn't want to go into the final year of his contract.
Now, if Yanda feels healthy again after the 2019 season, he knows where he'll be in 2020.
So, will the Ravens be the only team he ever plays for?
"Yeah, I hope so," Yanda said. "You never say never in the NFL just because you never know what's going to happen a year down the road. But I would hope so."
"You still have to take it one year at a time, reassess, reevaluate. I don't know injury-wise and how my body is going to feel. I'm definitely excited about playing this fall. My body feels great."
Yanda said he felt stronger and more confident in his body and his level of play with each game that passed last season. By the end of the season, he was really excited.
Part of that feeling came from the Ravens' shift in offensive philosophy with quarterback Lamar Jackson. Yanda and former Ravens quarterback Joe Flacco played together for 11 years and were very close, but Yanda also likes a heavy dose of the ground game for a variety of reasons. He would much prefer firing off the ball and attacking the defender rather than retreating.
The Ravens have continued investing in the ground game with the promotion of Offensive Coordinator Greg Roman, the addition of running backs Mark Ingram and rookie Justice Hill and more. This offseason is music to Yanda's ears, and even more reason to keep suiting up.
"I'm all for it," Yanda said. "All coordinators all say they want to start out running the football, but it takes 100 percent commitment. When the crap hits the fan, you have to stick to your guns and run the football. I think Greg does that. Day in and day out, he's going to run the football."
Don't confuse Yanda's thoughts about retirement as a signal that he's lost the passion.
"My mind is still … I love to play, I love to compete, I love to wake up on Sunday morning ready to get after somebody's you know what," Yanda said. "That fire is still there. But I also understand that body is very important as well."