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Former Raiders Pro Bowler says he plans to retire from NFL

Updated June 10, 2024 - 5:50 pm

Former Raiders tight end Darren Waller said in a video posted to his YouTube channel Sunday he plans to retire from the NFL.

Waller revealed he suffered a serious illness last season that required emergency intervention.

“It was pretty clear I almost just lost my life, and I don’t know if I really feel like if I would have died that I would have felt great about how my life was going,” Waller said. “I’m doing something I found a lot of joy in and have had amazing moments with, but the passion has slowly been fading.

“If I were to be in that position again, on the edge of death, would I be OK with how my life was going?

Waller said in the video he posted Sunday that throughout his life people looked at his struggles and wondered how he could not be happy despite all of his talent and success.

“I find it very ironic that now I’m in a situation where from the outside looking in, people are probably feeling like, ‘This dude is losing his mind,’” Waller said. “But really on the inside, I feel like things are really coming together in my world.”

Waller, 31, has three seasons remaining on a contract with the Giants that pays him more than $10 million per year. He said during the video his understanding is he owes the team around $1 million in bonus money as a result of his decision to retire.

“We have great respect for Darren as a person and player,” the Giants said in a statement. “We wish him nothing but the best.”

Waller finishes his NFL career with 350 catches for 4,124 yards and 20 touchdowns. He had 107 catches for 1,196 yards and nine touchdowns in 2020 for the Raiders to earn his lone Pro Bowl appearance.

The bulk of Waller’s production came in the five years he spent with the Raiders in Oakland and Las Vegas from 2018-23. He was traded to the Giants last offseason for a third-round pick.

“Those were the best years of my life playing football with the guys in that room,” he said of his Raiders tenure.

The Georgia Tech alum was signed off the Ravens’ practice squad late in the 2018 season after then-coach Jon Gruden and some of his assistants spotted Waller during warmups before a game against Baltimore.

Waller was working his way back from multiple suspensions for violations of the NFL’s substance-abuse policy at the time. He has been outspoken about his recovery from addiction and subsequent sobriety.

“I’m eternally grateful for the game of football,” Waller said. “I wouldn’t be able to have this conversation or to think things through or be self-reflective if it wasn’t for the opportunity to save my life and go to rehab, which the NFL offered me. They gave me an opportunity to re-establish myself, to come back in the world and do something productive, provide an example, be a leader and a difference-maker both in my craft and in my everyday life, wherever I go.”

Waller has indicated his second album is expected to be released later this year.

“This is an opportunity for me to take back the power in my life, start to make choices for myself and take control,” he said. “Even if my passions and the things I’m interested in going forward don’t bring me another dime, at least I’m going to be in a situation where how much ever time I have left on this earth, I can be in that bed and be like, ‘I’m cool. I’ve lived a lot of life.’

“I should have died at least four times. At least. But I’m still here. At this point, it’s about becoming who I really am when I feel like my life has just been on a loop of doing the same things since I was 4-years-old.”

Contact Adam Hill at ahill@reviewjournal.com. Follow @AdamHillLVRJ on X.

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