The Ravens officially terminated the contract of cornerback Chris McAlister Monday, ending a 10-year run in Baltimore for one of the top cornerbacks in the game.
McAlister was at team headquarters in Owings Mills, Md., for an exit physical - which every player on the 2008 roster must undergo - and a meeting with general manager and executive vice president Ozzie Newsome.
The three-time Pro Bowler admitted in an interview with 105.7 FM today that he was surprised by the news.
"It's one of those things that no player, especially after being with an organization as long as I've been, wants to hear that they've been released," he said. "It happens. It's part of the game.
"There's nothing I can do about it. I'm still dealing with the shock of the whole thing. I can't imagine that this happened."
McAlister was the 10th-overall selection of the 1999 NFL Draft and quickly made a name for himself as player opposing quarterbacks avoided. The Arizona product produced 26 career interceptions, returning six for touchdowns. McAlister also took a missed field goal 107 yards to the end zone to set a record for the longest play in NFL history at the time.
"We want to thank Chris for all he did for the Ravens in the past 10 years," Newsome explained in a statement. "He was a major contributor to many big wins, including the Super Bowl. To play the type of defense we have used here, you have to have corners who can cover one-on-one. He was one of the best at that for us. He was physical and he could run with the best."
But McAlister, 31, had been troubled by knee injuries in recent years. He has missed a total of 18 games over the past two seasons.
In 2008, McAlister played in only six games before he was placed on Injured Reserve and required knee surgery. Before then, he had intercepted three passes and posted 19 tackles.
"All of us who had the opportunity to coach Chris for the first time this season have an appreciation for all the good things he did for this team through the years," head coach John Harbaugh said. "He'll be remembered by us and the fans as one of the best to ever play for the Ravens. He's a tough guy and he loves football. He'll play again and he'll play well."
In McAlister's absence, Fabian Washington stepped up to start opposite Samari Rolle. The Ravens finished the 2008 regular season ranked as the league's second-best passing defense.
McAlister, who said he expects to be cleared for "100 percent football activity" by May or June, is hoping to sign on with another team for the upcoming campaign.
"I never thought it would happen, but I'll bounce back," he stated. "I still love football. I still want to play football."
McAlister also said that he "couldn't comment" on reported clashes with Harbaugh and the Ravens' coaching staff, but that Charm City would always hold a special place in his heart.
"Baltimore - the city, the fans, the people - will always be my second home," McAlister said. "I've had my ups and downs, as we all know, but there is no better football city than Baltimore."