Does This NFL Player Regret Retiring in the Middle of a Game?

Playing in the NFL is one of the most physically, mentally, and emotionally taxing professions one can enter. Being an NFL player requires playing through a lot of pain and exposing yourself to a high risk of injury.

Last season, an NFL player decided the toll of an NFL was too great to pay and retired while a game was going on. The player was Vontae Davis of the Buffalo Bills. A year later, the question remains: does Davis regret retiring in the middle of a game? 

Vontae Davis career overview

Davis was drafted by the Miami Dolphins in 2009 with the 25th pick of the first round. The defensive back had played at Illinois. 

He played three seasons in Miami, six in Indianapolis, and part of one in Buffalo. Over ten seasons, he put up the following numbers

  • 22 interceptions 
  • 121 games played 
  • Two sacks
  • 409 combined tackles 
  • Four quarterback hits 
  • 97 passes defended 
  • Two Pro Bowl selections 
  • One interception returned for a touchdown 

Pro Football Reference prepares “similarity scores” for every player to give context on a player’s career by comparing them to other players with similar results. Some players who matched Davis’s score included: 

  • Patrick Chung
  • Antrel Rolle 
  • Donovin Darius
  • Jimmy Johnson 

Davis was named to the 2009 All-Rookie team. 

How Vontae Davis retired

On September 16, 2018, Davis decided he had had enough of the NFL life. At halftime of the Bills’ game against the Los Angeles Chargers, Davis called it quits. He didn’t even finish the game.

Davis was only 30 years old at the time. He told his defensive coordinator that he was retiring, texted his wife, and headed for the locker room for the final time. He didn’t speak to the press.

One of Davis’ teammates, linebacker Lorenzo Alexander, was not a fan of the move. Alexander called it “completely disrespectful to his teammates.” But Davis didn’t see it as quitting on the team. 

“I don’t think I quit. I think I feel that, as I walk away from a game that no longer serves me mentally, physically, and emotionally. That’s what I would tell people who say I quit. Most people don’t know who I am as a person or what I’ve been through to achieve the success I have.”

It was an unprecedented event: an NFL player in (mostly) good health retiring in the middle of the game. Davis had a nagging groin injury that had bothered him through much of his career, but that day he didn’t report any pain.

It shocked the football world, including Davis’s own brother, Vernon, a tight end for the Washington Redskins. Despite being older than Vontae, Vernon was in the awkward position of playing longer than his little brother. 

Does Vontae Davis regret retiring? 

A year later, ESPN followed up with Davis to see how he was doing and document whether he regretted the decision. 

The answer is a resounding no. According to Davis, “And looking back, it’s one of the best decisions I’ve made in my life, honestly. Because I did something that I knew was the best thing for me.”

The piece went on to describe Davis’s current mentality: 

“Davis is truly happy. He loves how great his body feels. He loves that soon he’ll be his own boss and that he’s creating a space to help others heal. He wakes up every day with the freedom to decide how he wants to fill his day, knowing he, Megan and their future family are financially secure.”

Though he left in an unconventional way, it sounds like Davis made the right move for himself and his family.