Former Arizona Cardinals running back Rashard Mendenhall was tired of living a "private life in the public eye" as an NFL player, which included being the target of racial slurs online, he wrote in his most recent blog for Huffington Post, in which he explained why he retired at 26 years old.
Mendenhall wrote that he wasn't going to hold a news conference or announce his retirement, but after telling those close to him, there was a sense of surprise. That led to his explanation.
Reports began to surface Saturday that Mendenhall, who would've been an unrestricted free agent come Tuesday afternoon, was planning on retiring.
"I just kind of wanted to disappear," Mendenhall wrote. "The fact that I was done playing would've been clear once some time had passed and I hadn't signed back with the Cardinals or any other team. Maybe people would've thought I couldn't get another job. Either way, I was OK with the idea of fading to black, and my legacy becoming, 'Whatever happened to that dude Rashard Mendenhall? He was pretty good for a few years, then he just vanished.'"
Mendenhall played six years in the NFL, five with the Pittsburgh Steelers, the team that drafted him, and with the Cardinals in 2013. The University of Illinois product has 4,236 yards on 1,081 carries (3.91 yards per carry) and 37 touchdowns as a pro. He'd signed a one-year contract with Arizona for $2.5 million, including a $500,000 signing bonus.
Injuries plagued Mendenhall throughout his career. He suffered a shoulder injury his rookie season, a torn ACL in 2011 and turf toe in 2013.
He joined the Cardinals last offseason because of his relationship with Arizona coach Bruce Arians, Mendenhall's offensive coordinator in Pittsburgh. Last season was Mendenhall's first full year playing on a healthy right knee since 2011, and he turned it into 687 yards and eight touchdowns on 217 carries.
But it wasn't football that drove Mendenhall away. He says his passion for the game was still alive and well, but his retirement was due to a combination of things -- having his life dissected under a microscope, wanting to live the rest of his life without the potential physical limitations that come with years of playing, and his dislike with how the game has shifted more toward entertainment and away from fundamentals.
"Imagine having a job where you're always on duty, and can never fully relax or you just may drown," he wrote. "Having to fight through waves and currents of praise and criticism, but mostly hate. I can't even count how many times I've been called a 'dumb n-----.'"
Mendenhall said he'll travel the world and write, a sentiment he echoed to Arians after the season, according to ESPN NFL Insider Adam Schefter.
"As for the question of what will I do now, with an entire life in front of me?" he wrote. "I say to that, I will LIVE! I plan to live in a way that I never have before, and that is freely, able to fully be me, without the expectation of representing any league, club, shield or city.
"I do have a plan going forward, but I will admit that I do not know how things will totally shape out. That is the beauty of it! I look forward to chasing my desires and passions without restriction, and to sharing them with anyone who wants to come along with me! And I'll start with writing!"