Off the depth chart

The details are strikingly mundane. He returned to Renton during the Broncos' bye week to be with his longtime girlfriend, Dani Bunker, and her 5-year-old daughter. On Sunday, Nov. 3, he called his agent, Michael George, and told him he was finished with football; George told Moffitt to sleep on it. The next day, Moffitt called Broncos VP of football operations John Elway and said: "I don't have a passion for football anymore, and I don't want to play. I'm not happy." Elway was supportive.

"I was very insistent on telling John I didn't want to waste his time," Moffitt says. "I told him, 'I'm good.'"

And then, in typical Moffitt fashion, he tweeted, "Football was fun but my head hurts-haha kidding roger goodell. I'm on to new things, thanks to everyone along the way!!!" He swears he thought that would be the end of it, that nobody would care about a story he dismissively calls "Backup Retires." But then interview requests rolled in and Moffitt started talking about the sports-industrial complex and the controversial writings of libertarian socialist Chomsky and brain trauma and universal harmony. Pretty soon, "Backup Retires" had developed layers, existential and otherwise. Doors opened. His phone rang.

ON THE BIG-ASS SAMSUNG, it's the second quarter, and Manning is running up to the line, screaming, neck veins in serious bas-relief. He backs up, looks around, barks something to his right and heads back toward the line to start all over again. It's the whole Peyton oeuvre, and as it plays out, Abou-Zaki asks Moffitt, "What's Peyton saying right now?" Moffitt shrugs and says, "That's the hardest part about playing with him. Every play has 30 different names." He tells the story of one young player who spent most of training camp running the wrong play until one day Manning put his arm around him and said, "I've got to ask: Did you graduate from college?"

Moffitt is barefoot, and his blocky feet, seemingly as wide as they are long, are propped up on the ottoman, their cleat-induced calluses exoskeletal. Nearly 27 million Americans are watching this game, and it's difficult to imagine any of them less invested than Moffitt. At no point does he express excitement or wonder or even anticipation. He might as well be a vegan forced to watch Duck Dynasty.

Conscientious objection is rare in the NFL. Dave Meggyesy quit the league in 1969, citing football's militarization and dehumanization. Fiction provides a closer parallel to Moffitt, though. Gary Harkness, the narrator of Don DeLillo's novel End Zone, plays blocking back for a Texas college while fretting over nuclear holocaust. His metaphysical unease peaks during a game, when he gets a playcall and simply leaves the field. "I reached the huddle. I realized I didn't want to be with all these people. They were all staring at me through their cages."

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