GREEN BAY – Packers defensive tackle B.J. Raji has announced he will not play football in the 2016 season, and he may or may not return to football in the future.
Raji released a statement to the Green Bay Press-Gazette that was also published by additional media outlets announcing his hiatus from the game. An unrestricted free agent, Raji has spent his entire seven-year career with the Packers since arriving in Green Bay as a first-round draft pick, No. 9 overall, in 2009.
Packers DT B.J. Raji racked up 34 total tackles and 2 passes defensed in his 2015 campaign. Photos by Shawn Hubbard, Jim Biever, and Matt Becker, Packers.com
In the statement, Raji spoke of receiving a contract offer to return to the Packers, but not having a "total commitment" to football at this time.
"I cannot rule out a return to the NFL in the future, but I will definitely not be playing during the 2016 season," Raji said.
After issuing the statement, Raji later told the Press-Gazette that the health of his mother and aunt were factors in his decision.
Raji also thanked the Packers, the city of Green Bay and the team's fans for their dedicated support.
Raji has been a full-time starter on the Packers' defensive line for five of the last six seasons. He missed the entire 2014 season due to injury. He has recorded 11 sacks in his career, 6 ½ coming in the Super Bowl season of 2010.
In the playoffs that year, he had a sack in the divisional round at Atlanta and then famously returned an interception 18 yards for a touchdown in the NFC title game in Chicago, a play that provided the decisive points in a 21-14 Green Bay victory. His only other career touchdown came as a running back, on a 1-yard plunge vs. Tampa Bay in 2011.
Here is the full text of Raji's statement:
I am taking a hiatus from the NFL and will not play during the 2016 NFL season. This decision was made after hours of conversation with close family members and mentors and considerable self-introspection and is one in which I am absolutely certain. I cannot rule out a return to the NFL in the future, but I will definitely not be playing during the 2016 season.
Coach Lombardi once said that "unless a man believes in himself and makes a total commitment to his career and puts everything he has into it – his mind, his body, his heart – what's life worth to him?" That is the approach I have taken with football since I was a 2-star high school recruit. That total commitment was the foundation of my success at Boston College, helped me become a top ten pick in the NFL and helped me both make a Pro Bowl and win a Super Bowl. However, when my agents Brian Murphy and Camron Hahn informed me that they had a new deal with the Packers, I knew that I would not be able to live up to Coach Lombardi's "total commitment" standard and made this decision out of respect to this great organization.
I have played football and been defined as a football player for as long as I can remember. This off-season was the first time that I felt myself pulled in another direction and I am excited to first be "all in" with my family back home and then to explore new frontiers. I am not exactly sure what the next phase of life will entail, but I am confident that all of the lessons I learned during my NFL journey will provide a solid foundation for success.
I have enormous gratitude for Mr. Murphy, Mr. Thompson, Mr. Ball, Coach McCarthy, our entire coaching and training staff and all those in the football personnel department who make the Green Bay Packers so special. This organization not only made my NFL dreams a reality and provided financial security for me and my family for generations to come, but the Packers also helped me become the type of man who can make the decision I make today and for that I am eternally grateful.
I had the great fortune of playing with and developing friendships with some of the greatest teammates in the NFL and I thank all of them for going to battle with me every Sunday. It doesn't seem that long ago that Clay and I came to Green Bay together as first round picks (me 17 picks ahead of Clay of course) and I am really proud of what we were able to accomplish as a defense and a team, bringing a Lombardi trophy to Green Bay.
Finally, I can't possibly thank enough the tremendous city of Green Bay and Packers fans across the country. You embraced me from the beginning and helped Green Bay become not just a place I worked, but also a home. I know if I have the same passion, dedication and love that the Packers fans bring to Lambeau Field every game, I will find happiness and great success.
All my best,