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HAMMOCK: Stinchcomb focused on life after football

New Orleans Saints running back Reggie Bush is picked up by offensive tackle Jon Stinchcomb after Bush scored on the 2-point conversion after a touchdown in the second half of their football game in the Superdome in New Orleans Sunday, Oct. 21, 2007. The Saints won 22-16.(AP Photo/Alex Brandon) 

New Orleans Saints running back Reggie Bush is picked up by offensive tackle Jon Stinchcomb after Bush scored on the 2-point conversion after a touchdown in the second half of their football game in the Superdome in New Orleans Sunday, Oct. 21, 2007. The Saints won 22-16.(AP Photo/Alex Brandon) 

This isn't where Jon Stinchcomb expected to be Thanksgiving week.

The Parkview grad planned to man his usual offensive tackle position for the New Orleans Saints, getting ready to protect franchise quarterback Drew Brees for an upcoming Monday night showdown with the Giants. Instead, he's back home in Gwinnett County and watching the NFL season unfold on TV.

A fixture on the Saints line for years, Stinchcomb was cut in August after struggling to regain his Pro Bowl form because of knee and quadriceps injuries. He knew he wasn't playing up to his potential and he had missed some practices, so he and the Saints respectfully ended their relationship, a great one that included a Super Bowl championship.

At that moment, Stinchcomb knew his nearly nine-year NFL career was over. He had interest from other teams, but he chose retirement from football.

"I don't have any regrets with the way it played out," the 32-year-old former Georgia Bulldog standout said.

With his football career in the past, Stinchcomb is relishing his semi-retirement. It's like an extended offseason.

He and his wife Allison, who have a soon-to-be 2-year-old son and another child on the way, have settled back in southeastern Gwinnett County, where they are renovating a home. It was hard to leave a New Orleans community where the Stinchcombs were so entrenched -- he was the Saints' NFL Man of the Year twice for his community service -- but it brought them closer to their family.

As for his future plans, Stinchcomb isn't completely certain and he's open to anything. He lets you know quickly that his retirement is strictly from football.

"I'm just keeping my head to the ground and seeing where God leads me," Stinchcomb said. "Right now, it's just a blessing. My son will be 2 in January and I'm getting to spend time with my family. ... I majored in pre-med at Georgia and definitely at some points I'd like to put that to use. Maybe physical therapy school or another door that might open. I definitely feel like I didn't go through all that school for nothing.

"I don't think my life plan was to play 8 years in the NFL and do nothing for the rest of my life."

He leaves football with a lifetime of memories, from winning the SEC Championship at Georgia to earning a Super Bowl ring with the Saints. Until this year, he was a model of durability as he started 80 straight games for New Orleans from 2006-10, protecting Brees for the best seasons in franchise history. He played through painful injuries at times, including a tough 2010 season where he made 16 starts despite his physical pain, but couldn't bounce back from his latest knee surgery.

Those types of injuries from football -- dating back to a knee injury that ended his senior season at Parkview in 1997 -- are now a thing of the past.

"Football's tough, it takes its toll," Stinchcomb said. "But it's a very rewarding process, too."

Will Hammock can be reached via email at will.hammock@gwinnettdailypost.com. His column appears on Thursdays. For archived columns, go to www.gwinnettdailypost.com/willhammock.