Five NFL stars who came out of retirement

Profile Picture: Robert Criscola

February 9th, 2022

After 22 remarkable seasons, Tom Brady has rode off into the sunset…or has he?

The sure-fire Hall of Famer told Jim Gray on his Let’s Go! Podcast on Monday that "you never say never" when asked about a potential return to the NFL.

That comment got us thinking about some memorable comebacks in football. Here are five NFL stars who came out of retirement for a second (or third) stint in the league.

1. Brett Favre

Brett Favre could have been called “The Comeback King” with the amount of times he mulled retirement, only to don the pads once more.

Favre opted to play ‘one more season’ with the Green Bay Packers in 2007, and came up short of his second career Super Bowl. He officially retired for the first time in 2008, but months later, he felt the itch to return.

The Packers agreed to deal Favre to the New York Jets in August of 2008 for a conditional fourth-round draft pick. Things began well enough for Favre, as he went 8-3 out of the gate, but four losses in the final five games cost the Jets a shot at the playoffs.

Favre would retire again in early 2009, only to resurface with the Minnesota Vikings later that summer. “The Gunslinger” got one more shot at glory, as the Vikings made it all the way to the NFC Championship Game, but they lost to the eventual Super Bowl champion New Orleans Saints.

Following an injury-marred 2010 campaign, Favre hung up his cleats for good.

2. Eric Weddle

Eric Weddle’s comeback caper is still being written, as his Los Angeles Rams will play the Cincinnati Bengals in Sunday’s Super Bowl.

The six-time Pro Bowler spent his 13th and final season as a Ram before calling it quits in 2019. But at age 37 – knowing L.A. was dealing with multiple injuries at safety – Weddle launched a comeback this postseason. And it seems like he never left.

“His communication in the backend is like truly what you would want out of an elite safety,” cornerback Jalen Ramsey told reporters during Monday’s Super Bowl LVI video conference. “It’s like he hasn’t skipped a beat when it comes to communication and his mental focus and all of that.”

“It couldn’t have timed out better for us to get him when we did and have him in the building in this critical stretch when those kinds of things – your attitude, your commitment, your standard of what you do and how you do things – couldn’t be more important during the playoffs,” offensive lineman Andrew Whitworth told

3. Ed "Too Tall" Jones

Taken first overall in the 1974 NFL Draft, the 6’9 Ed “Too Tall” Jones became a standout at defensive end with the Dallas Cowboys, amassing 31 sacks over five seasons, highlighted by a win in Super Bowl XII. But in 1979, at age 28, Jones shockingly turned his back on football in favor of a boxing career.

Jones would go a perfect 6-0 in the ring with five knockouts, but the competition was weak, and critics were not impressed by the former Tennessee Gold Glover.

“He cannot box, he cannot punch and his chin gives off a musical tinkle when tapped,” legendary sports columnist Red Smith wrote in The New York Times after Jones’ debut.

Jones’ manager, Dave Wolf, said his client was “embarrassed by his performance but not to the extent that he gave up out of embarrassment. What we were all amazed at was the animosity he seemed to create. Suddenly, he was the villain, as though he had broken a sacred law by giving up football.”

Jones would return to the Cowboys after missing only the 1979 season, and his second act was just as impressive as his first. He would tally another 75 sacks over 10 seasons with Dallas, earning three Pro Bowl nominations in the process.

4. Rob Gronkowski

He hasn’t been the most durable tight end of all time, but Rob Gronkowski might be the most gifted one in NFL history.

Gronkowski’s inimitable relationship with Brady guided the pair to several great seasons, capped off on four occasions by a Super Bowl title. That includes the 2020 campaign with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, in which Brady was able to lure “Gronk” out of retirement. The former New England Patriot sat out the entire 2019 season.

Gronkowski is currently mulling his options after Brady announced he was hanging up his cleats.

5. Marshawn Lynch

Marshawn Lynch’s comeback story is here so we won’t get fined.

Lynch’s hot-and-cold personality, coupled with an incredible talent at tailback, endeared him to Seahawks fans during the glory days of the “Legion of Boom.” After an injury-plagued 2015 campaign, he announced his initial retirement.

But when Lynch realized his hometown Oakland Raiders would be moving to Las Vegas, he jumped at the chance to return to the NFL in 2017. He rushed for 891 yards over 15 games, then played only six games in 2018.

Lynch had planned to call it quits in 2019, but the Seahawks lured him back in Week 17 of that year after being decimated by injuries. Lynch would score a touchdown in the season finale, as well as a Wild Card weekend win, before being eliminated in the divisional round.