Green Bay Packers defensive lineman B.J. Raji said he is stepping away from football and that he will not play for at least the 2016 NFL season.
Raji released a statement Monday, referring to his decision as “a hiatus” and saying that he “cannot rule out a return to the NFL in the future.”
“I have played football and been defined as a football player for as long as I can remember,” Raji said in the statement. “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.”
Multiple Packers sources told ESPN that they believe Raji, 29, will simply take a one-year break and that Monday’s decision does not constitute a retirement.
Raji, who currently is a free agent, said in the statement that his agents recently told him that he had been offered a new contract with the Packers. Citing his lack of “total commitment,” Raji said he decided to step away “out of respect to this great organization.”
Raji, the ninth overall pick in the 2009 draft, was a free agent this offseason for the third straight year. He returned to the Packers on one-year deals each of the past two seasons — in 2014 after a disappointing season and in 2015 after missing all of the previous year with a torn biceps tendon.
Raji played in all but one game last season and ended a 35-game regular-season streak without a sack in Week 1. However, he did not record another sack all season. Still, he was a force early on against the run until a groin injury slowed him down.
Raji missed Week 6 against the San Diego Chargers but returned after the bye and played the rest of the way. He played 41.6 percent of the defensive snaps last season, mostly on obvious running downs.
ESPN Packers reporters Rob Demovsky and Jason Wilde contributed to this report.