When an NFL legend retires, tributes pour in and we reminisce about their legacy. However, on plenty of occasions we’ve seen these icons make u-turn decisions and announce their intentions of returning to the league. The most recent example of this, of course, is Tom Brady. Brady announced his retirement following the 2021 season and then shocked the world by changing his mind shortly afterwards.
While we have no doubt Tom Brady will be as good as ever in Tampa Bay in 2022, plenty of NFL superstars have had worse fortunes. Here are five of them.
#1 - Jason Witten
Former Dallas Cowboys tight end Jason Witten will go down as one of the best players ever in the position. That doesn’t mean he should have returned in 2019 after initially announcing his retirement after the 2017 season.
Witten returned to the Cowboys in 2019, but was only able to put up 529 yards across the year despite starting all 16 games. He spent 2020 with the Las Vegas Raiders, where in just seven starts he managed 69 yards total. Witten should have stayed retired rather than compete with the younger tight ends that replaced him. Players like Dalton Schulz in Dallas and Darren Waller in Las Vegas.
#2 - Steve DeBerg
Quarterback Steve DeBerg called it quits in 1993 after 16 seasons in the NFL. DeBerg spent time with the San Francisco 49ers, Denver Broncos, Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Kansas City Chiefs and Miami Dolphins. He passed for 196 touchdowns.
There was a surprise around the league when, at the age of 44, DeBerg signed with the Atlanta Falcons. This was five years after his initial retirement. He would only go on to play in one game that year, a 28-3 loss. DeBerg completed only nine passes and threw an interception.
#3 - Reggie White
NFL Hall of Famer Reggie White went down as one of the best defensive ends the league has ever seen. But even he shouldn’t have come back out of retirement. White spent 14 hugely successful years with the Philadelphia Eagles and Green Bay Packers. He won the NFL Defensive Player of the Year award twice.
After retiring after the 1998 season, where he won his second DPOTY after amassing 16 sacks and four forced fumbles, he returned in 2000. He signed with the Carolina Panthers. While his 5.5 sacks wasn’t an awful return, it wasn't the Reggie White we all knew and loved. Carolina only finished 7-9.
#4 - Brett Favre
Three-time NFL MVP Brett Favre enjoyed an illustrious career with the Green Bay Packers. He was voted to 11 Pro Bowls and named an All-Pro six times. On top of that, he also won Green Bay a Super Bowl. Their fans were upset when he announced his retirement from the NFL after the 2007 season.
The Packers were ready to roll with Aaron Rodgers at quarterback, so when Favre decided to return, they traded him to the New York Jets. He would spend a year there before another two with Green Bay’s division rivals the Minnesota Vikings.
Favre did reach the NFC Championship with Minnesota. But was a single playoff appearance and a league-leading 22 interceptions in 2008 worth tarnishing his legacy in Green Bay?
#5 - Randy Moss
Randy Moss is viewed by many as the greatest wide receiver to ever play in the NFL. However, by the time he came out of retirement in 2012 he was clearly past it. Moss’ career was in its twilight and he initially retired following registering only 393 total yards in a three-franchise season in 2010. That year, he played for the Vikings, the New England Patriots and the Tennessee Titans.
But at 35-years-old, Moss announced that he had signed a one-year deal with the San Francisco 49ers. He didn’t really do much in San Francisco, only catching three touchdowns for 434 yards. This is nothing like the Randy Moss we all knew from his heyday. This was the last time he would play in the NFL, and was quite forgettable.