Two-time Pro Bowl wide receiver Emmanuel Sanders calls it a career after 12 seasons in NFL

ENGLEWOOD, Colo. — With a job as a television analyst pending and a desire to move on to the next phase of his life, wide receiver Emmanuel Sanders, 35, formally announced his retirement from the NFL on Wednesday.

Sanders, who spent most of his six of his 12 NFL seasons in Denver, was at the Broncos complex with his family to make the announcement. Last season, he finished his career with 13 starts with the Buffalo Bills.

A third round pick by the Pittsburgh Steelers in the 2010 draft, Sanders finished his career with 704 receptions, 9,245 yards and 51 touchdowns. He was a two-time Pro Bowl roster, played in three Super Bowls and was part of the Broncos’ Super Bowl 50 winning team.

“I’m proud to stand up here and tell you… that I’ve been chasing this dream and it’s been an amazing ride,” said Sanders.

Sanders said he’d had “a few teams awarded” to play this season, but in the end he said his long-term health considerations, as well as the death of longtime friend Demaryius Thomas last December, played a part in his decision. Sanders said he was not ready to make a formal announcement on Wednesday about his immediate future, but added that he has agreed to a deal to become a television analyst.

“Football is hard on the body, and I lost a good friend [in Thomas],” said Sanders. “…I’ve had a great career. I’ve been to three Super Bowls. What else do I have to prove?”

All three of Sanders’ 1,000-yard seasons came with the Broncos, two with Peyton Manning as quarterback. Sanders was part of the Broncos’ 2014 free-agency binge that also included linebacker DeMarcus Ware, cornerback Aqib Talib and safety TJ Ward.

At the time, he called Denver “wide receiver heaven” because of Manning’s arrival in 2012. On Wednesday, Sanders told how close he was to the Kansas City Chiefs in 2014 rather than Denver — he was in the Chiefs’ compound when John Elway, Broncos general manager, called – and didn’t play with Manning.

“I wanted to sign for three years” [in Kansas City] and they wanted me to sign four,” Sanders said. “…I get the call, at the facility, that I can go to Denver…and I remember being told [the Chiefs] I actually want to go back to my hotel to sort out the situation… I was just trying to get out so I could celebrate I was about to play with Peyton.”

The Broncos traded Sanders to the San Francisco 49ers after seven games into the 2019 season, the same year he had characterized the post-Manning Broncos’ struggles as “living in a world of worthless”. Sanders then played with the New Orleans Saints in 2020 before having 42 receptions for 626 yards and four touchdowns for the Bills last season.

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