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Giants' Darren Waller informs team he is retiring after eight NFL seasons

Giants tight end Darren Waller is retiring from football after eight seasons in the NFL.

SNY NFL Insider Connor Hughes has confirmed that Waller has officially informed the Giants that he plans to retire, making his decision official before mandatory minicamp begins.

ESPN's Jordan Raanan had reported earlier this month that people around the Giants expected Waller to call it a career.

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

In a video on YouTube explaining his decision, the tight end said he underwent a near-death experience in early November from an unspecified medical emergency that influenced his decision to walk away.

Waller said that after shooting a music video in South Jersey, on the drive home, he began to feel feverish, believing it could be the third time he had COVID-19. Upon returning home, he said he was shaking before he felt like he couldn't breathe.

“I found myself and my head starting to nod and losing consciousness... I kept nodding [off] and couldn’t breathe, so I ended up calling 911,” Waller said. “I think I’m talking clearly on the phone, but they can’t make out much of what I’m saying.”

In the time between calling 911 and paramedics arriving, Waller said he felt like he was dying on his couch waiting.

“It was a very scary situation,” he continued. “I ended up going to the hospital for three and a half days. Couldn’t stand up and or... use the bathroom or feed myself. It was an experience that would sober somebody up just and make them think, at least.

“I say all that because I come out of that experience... and I go back into my daily life, and it’s pretty clear I almost just lost my life. And I don’t know if I really feel like if I would’ve that I would've felt great about how my life was going if I died at the time.”

Waller explained that football was something that he had found a lot of joy in, "but the passion has slowly been fading."

Big Blue had been giving the veteran his time and space to decide the next step in his career after he told reporters earlier this offseason that he was unsure if he was going to be back with the squad for a second season. But the 31-year-old has decided to retire, walking away from the final three years and around $30 million on his contract.

“Thank you to the Giants, grateful for all the guys there, all the coaches there,” Waller said. “Welcomed me in, making me feel like family and giving me an opportunity and also giving me an opportunity to reflect in this time and make a decision.”

Waller was selected in the sixth round of the 2015 Draft by the Baltimore Ravens but after appearing in 18 games over his first two seasons, was suspended for the 2017 season after violating the league's substance-abuse policy for a second time. Waller re-joined the Ravens in 2018 as a member of the practice squad.

The Georgia native landed with the Oakland/Las Vegas Raiders, signed off the Ravens' practice squad, and took advantage of his second chance in the league.

Waller ended up making the Pro Bowl and finished third in AP Comeback Player of the Year voting during a breakout 2020 campaign in which he hauled in 90 catches for 1,145 yards and three touchdowns.

After two stellar seasons, injuries began to hamper his career and he appeared in just 20 games over his final two years with the Raiders, before being traded to the Giants for a third-round pick last offseason.

Waller’s Big Blue career didn’t quite go as planned, as he was limited to just 12 games due to a lingering hamstring issue, and he hauled in just 52 receptions for 552 yards and one touchdown when on the field.

Overall, he finishes his time in the NFL with a total of 350 receptions for 4,125 yards and 20 touchdowns across 86 games.

The Giants did well to provide themselves with a contingency plan in case Waller did ultimately retire, selecting Penn State's Theo Johnson in the fourth round to form a duo with Daniel Bellinger.

The 6-foot-6 athletic tight end saw his usage increase each year during his collegiate career and he viewed Big Blue as a perfect fit in the draft for his skillset.