After contemplating retirement in each of the past two seasons, Eagles running back Darren Sproles has finally decided to call it quits. The 36-year-old made the announcement on Saturday through a letter on the team's official website.
Sproles will be retiring after 15 NFL seasons that were spent with three different teams. The former fourth-round pick started his career in San Diego after the Chargers selected him during the 2005 NFL Draft. After the 2010 season, Sproles left the Chargers in free agency and ended up signing in New Orleans, where he would spend three seasons before he was . Sproles has been in Philadelphia since 2014, and in his letter, he sounded especially appreciative of his time in Philly.
"To Eagles fans everywhere, I want to thank you for the way you supported me every single day," Sproles wrote. "I could feel it. You made my time here special. I remember when I was first traded to the Eagles. It was a shock because it came out of the blue, but it turned into a blessing."
The retirement means that Sunday's game against the Cowboys will be the final home game of Sproles' career, and based on his letter, it seems that he's already feeling emotional about it.
"It's hard to put in words the emotion I will feel when I walk out of the tunnel one last time for a regular-season game at Lincoln Financial Field," Sproles wrote. "One last time with my teammates and coaches, and one last time in front of the fans. Trust me, I believe in this group and I know that we still have a nice run left in us this year. We've done it before and we can do it again."
Sproles has led one of the most underrated careers in NFL history. Despite standing just 5-foot-6, he's been a unique weapon throughout his career, and he's been utilized on both offense and special teams. Sproles has totaled 19,696 all-purpose yards in his career, which ranks fifth on the NFL's all-time list.
Sproles has been a Swiss Army knife in his career with 24.5% of his all-purpose yards coming through the air (4,840) and 18% coming on the ground (3,552). The speedy Sproles actually did most of his damage in the return game, with 42.4% of his career yardage coming on kickoff returns (8,352). Sproles also was a solid punt returner, with 2,961 career return yards.
The running back's original plan was to retire following the 2018 season. However, Sproles clearly had a change of heart after an injury-riddled year where he only played in six games. The running back's 2018 season was derailed by a hamstring injury that caused him to miss the first seven games of the year. Although he eventually returned, Sproles aggravated the injury in November, which caused him to miss three more games. By the time late December rolled around, it was becoming pretty clear that Sproles was going to return for 2019.
The Eagles running back had actually been thinking about retiring as early as the 2017 season, but like in 2018, injuries derailed that plan. During a Week 3 game in 2017, Sproles broke his wrist and tore his ACL on the same play, which caused him to miss the final 13 games of that season.
Sproles went into the 2019 season needing just 163 all-purpose yards to move ahead of Hall of Famer Tim Brown on the all-time list, which is one reason he likely decided to make a return this year.
Not only will Sproles be retiring with the fifth overall ranking on the all-purpose yards list, but he'll also be retiring with a Super Bowl ring. Despite being injured for the final 13 games of the 2017 season, Sproles still got a ring for the Eagles Super Bowl LII win over the Patriots.
Although Sproles never actually played in a Super Bowl, he did make the postseason a total of six times over his 15-year career. In those six playoff appearances, Sproles played in a total of 12 games, including an AFC title game after the 2007 season. One of the best playoff performances of Sproles' career came in 2008, when he helped the underdog Chargers beat Peyton Manning's Colts. In that 23-17 win, Sproles tallied 328 all-purpose yards and two touchdowns. The all-purpose number came from 105 rushing yards, 45 receiving yards, 106 kick return yards and 72 punt return yards.
The only thing left to be decided with Sproles is whether or not he did not enough to get in the Hall of Fame, and it will certainly be an interesting debate. Out of the top eight guys on the NFL's all-purpose yardage list, six of them are retired and all six of them are in the Hall of Fame. Sproles' ability to put up yardage in every facet of the game will be a big part of his argument for why he should be enshrined in Canton one day.