Vontae Davis on his unprecedented retirement: 'Leaving was therapeutic'

Shalise Manza Young
·Yahoo Sports Columnist

Vontae Davis became the butt of 10,000 jokes on Sunday when it was learned that at halftime of the Buffalo Bills’ home-opening loss to the Los Angeles Chargers, Davis took off his uniform, put on his street clothes, and retired.

He released a statement on social media a couple of hours after the game ended, saying it wasn’t “how I pictured retiring from the NFL” but that while he was on the field it “hit me hard and fast: I shouldn’t be out there anymore.”

On Wednesday, Davis spoke to retired fellow cornerback Domonique Foxworth and gave more of his side of things.

‘I felt normal’

Davis, the 25th overall pick in 2009, drafted by the Miami Dolphins, was in his first season with Buffalo, having signed a one-year, $5 million deal in February.

He said when he woke up at the team hotel on Sunday morning, “I felt normal” and followed the same routine he’d gotten used to: driving to the stadium he listened to music; at the stadium he hydrated and stretched and put on his headphones and recited Psalm 23 (“The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want”) twice.

Vontae Davis retired at halftime of Sunday’s Bills-Chargers game, saying, he realized “Football is not for me” anymore in the second quarter. (AP)
Vontae Davis retired at halftime of Sunday’s Bills-Chargers game, saying, he realized “Football is not for me” anymore in the second quarter. (AP)

But when the game started, Davis said, “I didn’t feel right. I didn’t feel like myself.”

Late in the second quarter, he had his moment of clarity.

“I went to the bench after that series and it just hit me,” Davis said. “I don’t belong on that field anymore.” He told John Butler, the Bills’ defensive backs coach, “I’m done,” and while Butler didn’t reply verbally, Lafayette Pitts played the last couple of snaps before halftime in Davis’ place.

‘Football is not for me’

Davis explained that in that moment he realized, “Football is not for me” and that he had become an outsider in the game he’d long loved. Over the years, he’d done what almost all football players do: he played through injuries, he did what was best for the team.

The Bills’ team chaplain and director of player development tried to talk to Davis.

“I didn’t expect them to understand,” he said. “That moment was shocking to me as well.”

He had no intention of hurting teammates — linebacker Lorenzo Alexander called it “completely disrespectful” — but doesn’t regret even the unheard of timing of his decision.

“In that moment, my intuition was telling me I don’t belong on that field anymore,” Davis said.

He texted his wife, Megan, “Babe I’m done. I’m retiring.” and she calmly asked if he wanted her to meet him at their house. A while later, he talked to his brother, Vernon, a tight end with Washington.

“Vernon was emotional. And surprised, but he’s always supported every decision I’ve made and understood,” Davis said.

Vontae Davis (22) couldn't stop the Chargers' Mike Williams from scoring on Sunday. This would be Davis' final game in the NFL. (AP)
Vontae Davis (22) couldn’t stop the Chargers’ Mike Williams from scoring on Sunday. This would be Davis’ final game in the NFL. (AP)

‘Leaving was therapeutic, bro’

He’s 30 years old and beginning a life without football, and while others assumed there’s something wrong with Davis mentally, he’s looking forward to what’s next.

“I feel great. I haven’t felt like this in … well, in my whole life,” he said.

Shortly after their phone interview ended, Davis sent Foxworth a text:

“And on a final note, Fox, leaving was therapeutic, bro. I left everything the league wanted me to be, playing for my teammates while injured, the gladiator mentality, it all just popped. And when it popped, I just wanted to leave it all behind. So that’s why I don’t care what people say. That experience was personal and not meant for anyone else to understand. It was me cold turkey leaving behind an identity that I carried with me for so long.”

Perhaps it’s not a coincidence that Davis’ Twitter bio says only, “Live with no regrets!!”

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