Playing for the woebegone Bills may not have proved too much for Vontae Davis, but trying to do so with a body badly damaged over nine-plus NFL seasons apparently was. That’s what the veteran cornerback said after making the unusual decision to retire at halftime of Buffalo’s loss to the Chargers Sunday.
“He pulled himself out of the game,” Bills Coach Sean McDermott said. “He told us he was done.”
“This isn’t how I pictured retiring from the NFL,” Davis, 30, said in a statement released by the NFL after the game. “I’ve endured multiple surgeries and played through many different injuries throughout my career and, over the last few weeks, this was the latest physical challenge. But today on the field, reality hit me fast and hard: I shouldn’t be out there anymore.
“I meant no disrespect to may teammates and coaches,” Davis continued. “But I hold myself to a standard. … It’s more important for me and my family to walk away healthy than to willfully embrace the warrior mentality and limp away too late.”
Not all of Davis’s teammates saw it his way, at least not in the immediate aftermath of the game. Veteran linebacker Lorenzo Alexander called the impromptu retirement “completely disrespectful,” adding that he had never seen anything like it, even going back to his youth-league days.
The Bills’ Rafael Bush echoed that language, saying (via the Buffalo News), “I did lose respect for him as a man. To quit on your teammates when things aren’t going so well in the middle of a game . . . that’s definitely disrespectful.”
A first-round pick by the Dolphins in 2009, Davis signed a one-year, $5 million contract with the Bills in the offseason after spending his previous six seasons in Indianapolis. He had accused the Colts of being disrespectful to him last season after they released him in November, which followed his decision to have season-ending groin surgery.
Over nine-plus seasons, not counting Sunday’s abbreviated effort, Davis played in 120 games with 112 starts, accumulating 22 interceptions and 106 passes defensed (per Pro Football Reference). The Washington, D.C. native, who played at Illinois and is the younger brother of Redskins tight end Vernon Davis, made two Pro Bowls and was named to the NFL’s 2009 all-rookie team.
“This was an overwhelming decision, but I’m at peace with myself and my family,” Davis said in his statement. “I choose to be grateful to God for allowing me to play the game that I have loved as a boy until I turned 30 years old. I choose to be grateful to God for being a part of the NFL and making lifelong friends over the last decade. There were roadblocks and pitfalls along the way, but I am grateful to God for all of it because he doesn’t promise any of us an easy journey.”
ESPN’s Chris Mortensen reported Sunday that his understanding, per a source, was that Davis “put on his street clothes at half, said he was quitting and left the stadium.”
“I’ve never been around anything like that. I’ve never heard anything like that,” the Bills’ Kyle Williams said of Davis’s decision. “I think the only thing to say is he’s where he needs to be right now.”
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