Many NFL players have retired in the prime of their careers for a myriad of reasons. Players like Andrew Luck have retired, pointing to the growing concern of injuries in the game. Others have specifically pointed to the increased risk of concussion as their reason for leaving the league. Other players have retired because they have either fallen out of love with football or want to spend more time with their families.
Some players, however, have retired after becoming frustrated with the teams they for and not seeing any other option. Here, we look at the three legends of the sport who quit on a high because they wanted nothing more than to get away from their teams.
NFL stars who retired to get away from their teams
#1 – Calvin Johnson, WR, Detroit Lions
Calvin Johnson is a Hall of Famer and one of the greatest wide receivers to ever play the game. Between 2010 and 2015, he had more than 1,000 yards receiving in each of those seasons. The six-time Pro Bowler was only 30 years old when he retired in 2016. His 1964 receiving yards during the 2012 season still remain an NFL record.
But the Detroit Lions were historically bad and never challenged for the playoffs, never mind winning the Super Bowl. As it became clear that he could not go anywhere else, he chose to retire. The bad blood remains to this day.
#2 – Barry Sanders, RB, Detroit Lions
The Detroit Lions seem to be the kryptonite of great players who were pushed out of the game due to the general mismanagement of the franchise. He played for the Lions from 1989 to 1998 and was selected to the Pro Bowl every single year and was the NFL MVP in 1997. He had over 15,000 yards in those ten seasons and would have easily surpassed the record for the most rushing yards, had he not chosen to retire.
But he retired in the mire of contractual disputes, where the Lions filed a grievance to recoup bonuses. It has been reported that Barry Sanders agreed to pay back the dues should he be released or traded. But that never materialized, and he chose to hang up his cleats instead.
#3 – Jim Brown, RB, Cleveland Browns
Before Barry Sanders, there was Jim Brown. Another of the greatest running backs and NFL players of all time, he played with the Cleveland Browns from 1957 to 1965. He made it to the Pro Bowl in each of the nine seasons he played, was the NFL MVP thrice. He won the NFL Championship in 1964.
By 1965, he was evaluating his life choices, working in movies and looking to make both football and his other passions work. But Art Modell, then the owner of the Browns, gave him an either-or ultimatum. Not taking kindly to that, he instead chose to retire at the height of his powers.