Barry Sanders’ decision to end his NFL career came as a major surprise. He was coming off the best stretch of his career having surpassed the 1,400-yard mark in the previous five seasons. Sanders was in the prime of his career and showed no signs of slowing down.
To say Sanders went out on top might be a little bit of a stretch. His individual play was excellent, but the Detroit Lions were among the league’s worst franchises.
The Lions were never able to make use of the advantage Sanders provided. In a film made by NFL Network/Films, Sanders said the following about his early retirement:
"Over the next few years it looked like we would probably be rebuilding and we had gotten rid of some good players,” Sanders said. “I just felt like it was time to make a change.
"I knew going into (the final game of 1998 season) that was pretty much it, so I remember after the game I just broke down. I didn't really say what was going on. I was glad to get out of there."
It appears that the thought of going through another losing season took its toll.