Dallas Cowboys center Travis Frederick is retiring from the NFL at 29, the 2016 All-Pro saying he “could no longer perform at my highest level” after returning from a neurological disorder that sidelined him for a season.
Frederick made the announcement on Twitter on Monday, a surprising development for a team that invested heavily in its offensive line through the draft and now finds itself trying to replace one of the most important pieces.
A first-round pick seven years ago, Frederick missed all of 2018 after getting diagnosed with Guillian-Barre syndrome during training camp.
According to the National Institute for Neurological Disorders and Stroke, Guillain-Barre causes the body to attack a network of nerves around the brain and spinal cord. Most people recover from even the most severe cases of the auto-immune disease, but some will continue to have some degree of weakness, according to the institute.
Frederick returned in 2019 and said after the season he was pleased with the way he played. But even though he made his fifth Pro Bowl, Frederick was clear in his retirement announcement he didn't think he was the same player from before the illness.
“Each day, I faced a struggle: I could no longer perform at my highest level,” Frederick said. “Playing ‘well’ is not what I expect of myself and not what my teammates deserve. Because of this, I know my days as a football player are done."
During training camp in California two years ago, Frederick saw a specialist there because of feelings he said were similar to stingers in his neck and shoulders. When he returned to camp, he told reporters he checked out OK. Not long after, Frederick saw more doctors in the Dallas area, when the illness was diagnosed.
Frederick, who didn't miss a game in five seasons before the diagnosis, was the second of three first-round picks in a span of four years, a group that anchors what is considered one of the NFL's best offensive lines.
“His leadership ability, production and intelligence put him at the top level of interior offensive linemen in our league for many years,” Cowboys owner Jerry Jones said.
“At the pinnacle of his success, his career on the field was only exceeded by a rare display of courage and determination in overcoming a life-threatening illness and returning to the game — a challenge that could only be completed by a person with rare levels of perseverance and strength.”
Veteran Joe Looney started all 16 games and two playoff games in Frederick's place two years ago and recently re-signed with the Cowboys. Connor McGovern, a third-round pick last year who missed the season with a pectoral injury, played some center at Penn State.
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