The Anquan Boldin Era in Buffalo turned out to be extremely short lived.
The veteran wide receiver left the team Sunday and has informed it he intends to retire.
"We respect Anquan's decision to retire from the NFL. We appreciate the time he gave us over the past two weeks. He is one of the best receivers to play this game and we wish him and his family all the best moving forward," Bills General Manager Brandon Beane said in a statement issued by the team Sunday night.
Boldin, 36, signed a one-year contract with the Bills on Aug. 7 that could have paid him up to $4 million. He issued the following statement to ESPN's Jim Trotter, who was first to report the news of his impeding retirement, on Sunday night:
Statement from Anquan Boldin on his decision to retire: pic.twitter.com/z19jekK33R
— Jim Trotter (@JimTrotter_NFL) August 21, 2017
"Football in its purest form is what we all strive for as a nation. People from all different races, religions and backgrounds working together for one shared goal. The core values taught in football are some of the most important you can learn in life. To always be there for the guy next to you and not let your fellow man down. You do whatever it takes to make sure your brother is OK.
"Football has afforded me a platform throughout my career to have a greater impact on my humanitarian work. At this time, I feel drawn to make the larger fight for human rights a priority. My life's purpose is bigger than football."
Boldin's retirement must come as a shock to Beane, coach Sean McDermott and the Bills' veteran leaders, most notably quarterback Tyrod Taylor.
"I don’t think I have anything to prove, but for me, it’s about leaving a legacy," he said at his introductory press conference Aug. 9. "You want to be in control of your legacy at the end of the day. How things play out – I think that’s where I am in my career. I’m also playing to win another championship. That’s the reason I play this game. That’s the reason I’m here – to try and win a championship and nothing else."
Beane aggressively pushed back against the notion the Bills were tanking after trading away receiver Sammy Watkins and cornerback Ronald Darby, pointing to the signing of Boldin as evidence that wasn't the case.
"Everybody’s forgetting we signed Anquan last week," he said. "This is not a 'throw in the towel thing' at all. Somebody mentioned that somebody said that out there and that quite honestly, that’s annoying to me because you don’t know me if you think I’m throwing in the towel."
Boldin was asked after the Bills traded Watkins whether he still would have signed with the team had he known such a move was just days away from happening.
"I came here because of my belief in where this organization is headed, my belief in Coach McDermott," he said nine days ago. "I was sold on the guy when I visited here. I like his vision and what he brings to the table. Even if Sammy hadn't been here, I'd have came.
"I don't envision my role changing. I envisioned being a big part of this offense coming in. So for me, nothing changes."
Until Sunday, that is.
Boldin's retirement comes four days after he made an inauspicious preseason debut. During Thursday's 20-16 loss to the Philadelphia Eagles, the veteran receiver was targeted three times, catching one pass for 5 yards and taking a penalty for illegal motion. The first time he was targeted, Boldin slipped, nearly allowing former Bills cornerback Ronald Darby to come up with an interception. The next time Taylor looked for Boldin, he was picked off by Darby.
"Just getting a rhythm with the quarterback and just getting in game shape, honestly," Boldin said Friday when asked what he was focusing on, giving no hint at what would come two days later. "The only way you're going to get in game shape is if you play game football. We can come out, we can practice every day of the week, but that doesn't put you in game shape. For me, it's just getting a rhythm with the quarterback and making sure I'm ready come game one."
After trading away Watkins, the Bills' projected top three receivers were newcomer Jordan Matthews, Boldin and rookie second-round draft pick Zay Jones. Matthews, who was acquired from Philadelphia for Darby the same day Watkins was traded, suffered a sternum injury in his first practice with the Bills and might not be back until the regular season begins.
That leaves Jones as the No. 1 wideout at the moment. It's possible Boldin looked at the situation and realized his stated goal of winning a championship – as he did with the Ravens in 2012 – wasn't going to happen in Buffalo. His departure hurts not just on the field, but also in the locker room.
"When he speaks, all eyes are on him," Jones said after the Bills signed Boldin. "I think we all have a great level of respect for him, just what he’s done."
Boldin finishes his 14-year career having played in 202 games and with 1,076 catches (ninth all time) for 13,779 yards (14th all time) and 82 touchdowns (23rd all time). A three-time Pro Bowler, he also won the Walter Payton Man of the Year Award in 2015.