5:55 PM PST, January 26, 2014
RENTON, Wash. — It was more than a bye week for Denver Broncos guard John Moffitt.
More like a bye-bye week.
Less than three months ago, Moffitt stunned the 7-1 Broncos by returning home to the Seattle area during his week off and deciding to walk away from his NFL career. The Seahawks had traded him to Denver in August, after he had played his first two seasons with Seattle.
Now, the Broncos and Seahawks are playing in Super Bowl XLVIII, and Moffitt, a third-round pick in 2011, said he has no regrets about giving up on what millions of people would consider a dream job.
"I was just sick of playing football," said Moffitt, 27, sitting on the couch in a modest home he rents about a mile south of Seahawks headquarters. "I felt I'd played a lot and had gotten to the point where it wasn't necessarily paying off, and it wasn't something I was enjoying anymore. I was really unhappy with the whole lifestyle."
If Moffitt feels a pang these days, it's not one of regret. It's in his surgically reconstructed right knee, which tends to throb on cold days. He could have played on it, and did for 11/2 seasons, but the joint is a reminder of the toll the game takes on the body.
"It's like being an old man as a 27-year-old," he said. "I don't think compared to a lot of other guys I'm that badly banged up. But I definitely took a beating."
More ominous to him are the medical studies that it's not always the dramatic, cover-your-eyes hits to the head that cause permanent brain injuries, but often the constant percussive hits in the trenches.
"I think about my position, and that's all that is," said Moffitt, an All-American guard at the University of Wisconsin who signed a four-year rookie deal worth almost $3 million. "I stopped to really think about it and take it all in, and I'm like, 'What are you doing to your body?' My knee is what kind of woke me up."
But the potential for more injuries isn't the only reason why Moffitt quit the game. He soured on the NFL ethos — "taught thought" he calls it — which he sees as a big corporate money grab that uses players as pawns. It bothers him that society puts professional athletes on pedestals.
"It freaks me out sometimes when you have grown men that you look up to act completely different around you now because you're in the NFL," he said. "That should not happen. NFL players are young men who have a lot of money; they don't deserve that much credit simply on that basis.
"I don't think anybody should be treated differently for doing something so arbitrary as playing football. Show me the guy who cured cancer, and let's raise him up and be like, 'Do this stuff!' Have kids aspire to do that."
Moffitt said he likes and respects the Broncos and Seahawks organizations, and by all accounts he got along well with coaches and players. His situation was far from ideal, however. He started his first nine games at right guard as a rookie for the Seahawks before suffering a season-ending knee injury against Baltimore. By the time he was healthy enough to return for the start of the 2012 season, he had been demoted to part-time starter along with two others.
Unhappy with that arrangement, Moffitt asked to be traded, and the Seahawks obliged. Midway through this season's training camp, they first tried to trade him to Cleveland. Moffitt said the Browns tried to lowball him on his contract, then called off the trade for medical reasons when he wouldn't agree.
The Seahawks then shipped him to Denver, where he backed up at both guard spots and center. Although he had played in only two of the Broncos' first eight games, he was a key insurance policy as a reserve.
"It was a shocker coming out of the bye week," said John Elway, Denver's top football executive. "I said, 'Where's Moffitt?' And I get ahold of him and he goes, 'I'm not coming back.' Put us in a little bit of a jam, depth-wise.
"But I didn't want a guy who didn't want to play football, either. He sounded like he'd made up his mind. I just didn't want him to put himself in a premature decision where he had the weekend off, had a good time, and decided short-term-wise that, 'OK, I don't want to play football.'
"I didn't want where six to eight months from now he says, 'I made the wrong decision.'"
Moffitt said he's firm in his decision, and he's comfortable having walked away from the additional $312,500 he would have made had he finished the season, not counting postseason and Super Bowl bonuses. He lives with his girlfriend and her young daughter, drives an older sedan he bought used, and has the contents of his NFL locker in a big cardboard box in the kitchen.
Invited by a friend, he attended the NFC championship game between San Francisco and Seattle, and said he enjoyed watching it but felt no urge to resume his career.
"The way I look at it is, I did that dream," he said. "I did the NFL. I'm bored of it. I didn't like the way it was going for me. I didn't like it for health reasons. I'm going to create a new dream."
He has done some radio work and likes that. He's done some writing. And, the night before the 49ers-Seahawks game, he tried some stand-up comedy in front of more than 1,000 people at a Seattle theater.
The eager crowd cheered him and laughed at his NFL stories, especially the end of his routine when he joked that he wasn't worried about money, and that he merely needed to sell one item on EBay — something hugely valuable to an interested party in Seattle — and he'd be set for life:
The Broncos' playbook.
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