ORCHARD PARK, N.Y. (AP) — Receiver Anquan Boldin is abruptly giving up on football to pursue his humanitarian and charitable work just under two weeks after signing with the Buffalo Bills.
Boldin released a statement on Sunday night shortly after informing the Bills of his decision.
“Football has afforded me a platform throughout my career to have a greater impact on my humanitarian work,” Boldin. “At this time, I feel drawn to make the larger fight for human rights a priority. My life’s purpose is bigger than football.”
He added that football brings together people of different races and religions to strive toward one shared goal, and how important it is to not let your fellow man down.
Boldin, the NFL’s 2015 Walter Payton Man of the Year, oversees the south Florida-based Q81 Foundation, which offers educational support for under-privileged children.
Bills general manager Brandon Beane said the team respects Boldin’s decision to retire.
“We appreciate the time he gave us over the past two weeks,” Beane said. “He is one of the best receivers to play this game and we wish him and his family all the best moving forward.”
Boldin’s decision came as a complete surprise, especially after he talked about building on his legacy entering his 15th season and being open to serving as a mentor for Buffalo’s young group of receivers. Though he was non-committal about his future beyond this year, Boldin was intent on playing this season upon signing a one-year contract with a base salary of $1.75 million on Aug. 7.
“At this point in your career, you can’t get too far ahead of yourself, so I just take it a year at a time,” he had said. “Once I’m committed, I’m all in.”
The Bills, however, aren’t the same team he joined. Only four days after Boldin signed, Buffalo traded its top receiving threat in Sammy Watkins to the Los Angeles Rams for cornerback E.J. Gaines as part of two blockbuster deals on Aug. 11. In a separate trade, the Bills acquired receiver Jordan Matthews from Philadelphia for starting cornerback Ronald Darby.
The Bills also acquired second- and third-round draft picks in an indication the team is more intent on building through next year’s draft.
Though surprised by the moves, Boldin insisted at the time that Watkins’ presence had little to do with him signing with Buffalo.
“For me, I would’ve loved to have played alongside of Sammy, but that wasn’t the reason I signed here,” Boldin had signed. “The reason I signed here is the guys who are still here. I believe in coach Sean (McDermott) and what he’s doing and the direction this organization is heading in.”
McDermott is a first-time coach who spent the past six seasons as the Carolina Panthers defensive coordinator. He was hired in January to replace Rex Ryan, who was fired in the final week of last season.
Boldin ranks in the top four among active receivers with 1,076 catches, 13,779 yards receiving and 82 touchdowns receiving.
He appeared in just one preseason game for Buffalo, and finished with one catch for 5 yards in a 20-16 loss to Philadelphia on Thursday night.
Boldin spent last season with Detroit, where he had 67 catches for 584 yards and eight touchdowns in 16 games. The former Florida State star spent his first seven NFL seasons with Arizona, then played three years with Baltimore and three with San Francisco. He helped the Ravens win the Super Bowl in February 2013.
The Bills are in a sudden state of disarray at the receiver position three weeks before the season opens, and in the midst of a 17-year playoff drought — the longest active streak in North America’s four professional sports.
Boldin was supposed to fill a top-three spot alongside Matthews and rookie second-round draft pick Zay Jones.
Matthews, however, is listed as week to week after chipping a bone in his sternum during his first practice after being traded. He began light workouts on Sunday, and is on track to be ready for the season opener against the New York Jets.
Free-agent addition Rod Streater’s status is more uncertain after hurting his left toe against Philadelphia. McDermott said the medical staff is still evaluating Streater’s injury and wouldn’t rule out the possibility of surgery.
That leaves Andre Holmes and Philly Brown now competing for an increased role in an offense headed by quarterback Tyrod Taylor.
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