The NFL world was given a fascinating bit of news this Christmas with a report that the New Orleans Saints tried to convince Drew Brees to come out of retirement. Such a move would not be unprecedented, but would still be surprising.
An NFL player deciding to retire usually means they come to that decision for a variety of reasons. But there are also grounds to return to the gridiron and chase glory once again. Here are five notable NFL stars who decided to come out of retirement.
5 NFL stars who returned from retirement
#5 - Brett Favre
Brett Favre is the most unique player on this list because his "retirement" did not last all that long. He announced his decision to hang up his cleats in March of 2008. That cleared the way for Aaron Rodgers to take over as the new franchise quarterback of the Green Bay Packers.
But then a funny thing happened. July rolled around and Favre stated his desire to return to the NFL. The media circus began as the Packers had already moved on with Rodgers under center.
It became apparent that Favre was never ready to retire in the first place. But the Packers had made up their minds and had Rodgers in place as the future starter for years. There was just no more room for a veteran Favre anymore.
The situation was resolved when the Packers traded Favre to the New York Jets. He spent one season in New York, going 9-7, before spending two more years in the NFL with the Minnesota Vikings.
Favre led the Vikings to the NFC Championship Game during the 2009 season, only to fall short in overtime. His career officially came to an end following the 2010 season that saw the Vikings struggle on the field and Favre deal with injuries.
#4 - Jason Witten
Jason Witten landed the best possible job upon his NFL retirement. He was placed in the Monday Night Football booth and seemed to have a long-term, cushy job in place. That lasted a total of one season due to bad reviews of his performance.
Witten retired as a member of the Dallas Cowboys following the 2017 season. Then came the announcing gig in 2018. Once that flopped, he returned to the Cowboys in 2019 and started all 16 games for the team.
Witten finished the year with 63 receptions for 529 yards and four touchdowns. It was a good year, but nothing spectacular. The tight end still believed he had more left in the tank so he signed a deal with the Las Vegas Raiders for the 2020 season.
He finished the entire season with only 13 receptions, and ultimately decided to retire again. Witten did so, rightfully, as a member of the Cowboys.
3 NFL stars who returned from retirement
#3 - Marshawn Lynch
Marshawn Lynch began his NFL career with the Buffalo Bills, but made a name for himself with the Seattle Seahawks. He was a champion with them during the 2013 season and nearly won it all with them a year later.
Lynch's first retirement followed a 2015 season in which he missed time due to injury. That seemed to force him into the decision. But he was back in 2017 with the Oakland Raiders and put up a productive season with 891 yards and seven touchdowns. He returned in 2018, only to have to deal with injuries again.
The end to his career was fascinating as he signed with the Seahawks in 2019 for one final game and then the postseason. It was a fair conclusion to an exciting career out west.
#2 - Randy Moss
Randy Moss is one of the best receivers to ever play in the NFL. That is why it is shocking to see the way his career came to an end.
Moss began the 2010 season with the New England Patriots and was traded to the Minnesota Vikings, which was supposed to be a fantastic homecoming. He ended up lasting a total of four games after fighting with head coach Brad Childress. Moss then spent the final half of the season with the Tennessee Titans.
Moss spent a total of one year in NFL retirement before coming back and signing with the San Francisco 49ers. That saw him advance all the way to the Super Bowl where the 49ers fell to the Baltimore Ravens. The receiving legend finished his final season with 434 yards and three touchdowns.
#1 - Ricky Williams
Ricky Williams entered the NFL with extremely high expectations as a member of the New Orleans Saints. But he started making waves with the Miami Dolphins, only to retire during his prime in 2004.
He spent a full year away from the game and ended up returning in 2005 with the Dolphins. Unfortunately, a drug-related suspension followed in 2006, which knocked him out for the entire season, and it appeared his NFL career was over again.
But after a year in Canada, Williams returned to the Dolphins yet again in 2007. His career was back on track and he remained with the team through the 2010 season, even rushing for over 1,100 yards in 2009. What's impressive is that he was having this success well into his 30s.
Williams' career came to an official end after the 2010 season with the Ravens. He retired for the final time with 10,009 career rushing yards during a career that spanned 1999-2010. It was filled with controversy, but the final numbers prove just how dominant Williams was in the NFL.
The running back is easily the most unique NFL player on this list for his early retirement that arguably ended up prolonging his long-term career.