BRONCOS

Why Emmanuel Sanders chose to retire from playing now

Sep 7, 2022, 1:17 PM | Updated: 1:20 pm
Demaryius Thomas and Emmanuel Sanders...
(Photo by Justin Edmonds/Getty Images)
(Photo by Justin Edmonds/Getty Images)

ENGLEWOOD, Colo. –– Emmanuel Sanders could have kept going.

After 12 seasons, the former Broncos wide receiver still had gas in his tank. He had 42 catches for 626 yards and 4 touchdowns last year in Buffalo with Josh Allen. A year earlier with Drew Brees in New Orleans, he had 726 yards and 5 touchdowns on 61 catches. He played his role well. And if not for a capricious toss of the coin in Kansas City last January, he might have ended last season with his second Super Bowl ring.

There were offers to continue playing. The Bills were among those that showed interest, Sanders added. That would have brought him back together with his old Broncos teammate, offseason signee Von Miller.

But at what potential price?

“Even how I’m built, me getting hurt, what am I risking? What is it worth?” Sanders said Wednesday at UCHealth Training Center as he announced his retirement after a 12-season, five-team playing career.

“I got two kids. I’ve got a beautiful wife. I have something that’s bigger than football: I want to see my grandkids and my kids have kids. I want to see them grow old. And I want to grow old.”

And that, in particular, weighed heavily on Sanders’ mind after the Dec. 9, 2021 death of his former teammate and close friend, Demaryius Thomas.

“And the game of football, it’s tough on the body. And I lost a close friend, and we all know him: Demaryius Thomas,” Sanders said.

“And for me, it’s about longevity of life now.”

Sadly, longevity was something that Thomas did not have.

When Thomas died, he was struggling with seizures that began following a February 2019 car accident in Denver. But a posthumous examination of Thomas’ brain by the Boston University CTE Center revealed that Thomas already had stage 2 chronic traumatic encephalopathy — even though he was just 33 years of age when he died.

With a Super Bowl ring, two other conference championships, a pair Pro Bowl seasons, three 1,000-yard campaigns, financial security and an overstuffed treasure trove of memories, Sanders concluded that the risk was no longer worth the reward.

“I had a heck of a career. Twelve years. I’ve been to three Super Bowls,” Sanders said. “And to me, I feel like, ‘What else do I have to prove?’

“Now, I wake up in the morning, and I’m dropping the kids off at school. I’m making sandwiches for my daughter. And I see the beauty in that. And I’m happy. For me, there’s never really a right time to hang it up. But I’m happy to hang it up now, and I’m content with hanging it up now.”

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