Terry has been at the centre of one of the most embarrassing episodes for English football in recent times.
The Chelsea captain was found not guilty in court of racially abusing Anton Ferdinand, but he was a central figure in the public exposure of a hugely unpleasant side of the game.
Yet his decision to in effect protest against the Football Association pursuing their own case against him is understandable: why should he continue to represent an organisation that - to his mind at least - appear hell-bent on nailing his hide to the wall?
Whatever the rights and wrongs of the case, it would stick in the craw of anyone to wear the colours of an authority who one day expect you to put your body on the line in their name, and the next who accuse you of the basest of offences.
Terry said "it breaks my heart" to make his decision, and for someone who wore his heart on his sleeve so clearly for England that is no doubt the case.
But at the age of 31, and a time when competition for central-defensive places is set to become more intense than since Terry made the position his own eight years ago, it may also be a timely moment - even the perfect one - to concentrate on his club career.
Time's winged chariot is charging full speed ahead: the balance between the experience, commitment and attitude that Terry brought to the England team and the speed, skill and youth that his replacements will bring will soon tip in his rivals' favour.
Sir Alex Ferguson has long been an advocate of players extending their club careers by calling time on their international ones: look at Paul Scholes and Ryan Giggs, still going strong for Manchester United.
Who is to say that the decrease in intensity would not have a similar effect on Terry in the longer term?
And of course, should Terry be found guilty by the FA's regulatory body, it would be hugely uncomfortable for all concerned for Roy Hodgson then to select him for international duty - and Hodgson demonstrated pretty clearly before Euro 2012 that, given the chance, he would.
Terry's career has been a colourful one, with almost as many lows to go along with the highs: no other player in history has twice been stripped of the England captaincy and yet still been selected for the national team.
His decision-making may well have been questioned in the past. This time, however, it may well do everyone - including him - a big favour.
By Martyn Ziegler, Chief Reporter, Press Association Sport