Former Oakland Raiders tight end Darren Waller retires at 31

By TOM CANAVAN (AP Sports Writer)

New York Giants tight end Darren Waller announced his retirement from football on Sunday, saying he found “a lot of joy” in the game but “the passion is slowly fading.”

In a posted an almost 18-minute video on his YouTube channelWaller, 31, confirmed his retirement from the gaming business after serious about his future in recent months.

The Giants had been waiting for Waller to come to a decision whether he desired to play this season. He had not participated within the team's offseason workouts and mandatory minicamp begins Tuesday.

Darren Waller (12) of the New York Giants looks on during the first half of a preseason game against the Carolina Panthers at MetLife Stadium on August 18, 2023 in East Rutherford, New Jersey. (Sarah Stier/Getty Images/TNS)
Darren Waller (12) of the New York Giants looks on through the first half of a preseason game against the Carolina Panthers at MetLife Stadium on August 18, 2023 in East Rutherford, New Jersey. (Sarah Stier/Getty Images/TNS)

Waller described a “very scary” medical situation last November as he handled an injury he sustained in a game a couple of days earlier. He said he was on his way home to New Jersey after filming a music video when he felt sick and later began “shaking pretty badly” and couldn't breathe. He said he called 911 and was hospitalized for 3 1/2 days.

“I'm going back to my everyday life and it's pretty clear to me that I almost lost my life and I don't know if I would have really felt like I died and felt great about how my life would have turned out,” Waller said. “I'm doing something that I've enjoyed a lot and had great moments with, but the passion is starting to fade.”

He said the experience “put me in a situation where I had to change my mind and I made the decision that I was retiring from the NFL.”

Waller, who has struggled with hamstring problems the past three years, was limited to 12 games and had 52 catches for 552 yards and a touchdown in his only season with the Giants. He was set to make $10.5 million in 2024 and count $14.1 million against the salary cap. With his retirement, the Giants save $11.6 million in salary cap space and record a $2.5 million loss in dead money.

Drafted within the sixth round by the Ravens in 2015, Waller overcame early substance abuse issues to ascertain himself as one among the NFL's top tight ends. He was suspended for the primary 4 games of the 2016 season for violating the league's substance abuse policy and again for the 2017 season for a second policy violation.

Waller spoke openly about his struggle with addiction in addition to his depression and anxiety.

“I'm eternally grateful to the sport of football,” he said. “I wouldn't be able to have this conversation or think about things or think about myself if I hadn't had the opportunity to save my life and go to the rehab that the NFL has given me. They've also given me the opportunity to rebuild myself, to go back out into the world and do something productive, to be a role model, to be a leader, to make a difference in my craft, but also just in everyday life wherever I go.

“Well man, I’m eternally grateful.”

Waller finished his career with 350 catches, 4,124 yards receiving and 20 touchdowns in 86 games. He played with the Ravens and Raiders before spending his final season with the Giants, who acquired him in an offseason trade.

“We have tremendous respect for Darren as an individual and a player,” the Giants said in a statement. “We wish him nothing but the perfect.”

The Ravens released Waller before the 2018 season and he was signed to the Raiders' practice squad. He appeared in 4 games and had six catches.

His breakout seasons were 2019 and 2020, when he totaled 197 catches for two,341 yards and 12 touchdowns. He was chosen to the Pro Bowl for the 2020 season and would have been a reserve last yr, but a thumb injury prevented him from doing so.

Waller and Giants coach Brian Daboll exchanged text messages through the offseason, however the coach said last Thursday that the team continues to be waiting for a choice from him on his future as a player.

Much was expected of Waller last season, but he underperformed for a team that finished 6-11 and missed the playoffs a yr after Daboll led them to their first playoff berth since 2016.

Waller married WNBA star guard Kelsey Plum in March 2023, but they filed for divorce in April.

New York drafted tight end Theo Johnson from Penn State within the fourth round within the last draft in case Waller doesn't return. Daniel Bellinger and Lawrence Cager return from last season. New York also signed experienced Chris Manhertz as a free agent.

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