Trae Waynes has lived the football dream, and after two injury-plagued seasons in Cincinnati, he’s ready to move on to the next chapter of his life.
Waynes is virtually retired from professional football, despite the fact that he isn’t doing so formally (at least not yet). After seven NFL seasons, the cornerback and former first-round choice recently informed the Geary & Stein Sports Show podcast that he is no longer interested in continuing his football career.
“It’s open, but to be honest with you, I’m not really exploring anything,” Waynes remarked. “A number of teams have contacted us. To be honest, I’m done in my head. I’m not doing it formally because I don’t care (expletive). But I’m retired, but it’s not like I said anything about it.”
Wayne’s decision is mostly motivated by his health. Even after reaching the Super Bowl with the Bengals in the 2021 season, the former Michigan State standout decided it was time to call it quits after his final two seasons were filled with enough frustration.
“It didn’t seem like a Super Bowl to me since my time in Cincinnati has been dominated by injuries,” Waynes said. “That’s something I’ve never had the opportunity to do in Minnesota.”
“I was scheduled to play in the Super Bowl — well, I played a little bit in the Super Bowl — but I was meant to go in, but I got hurt again.” “There’s nothing more irritating than knowing you’re meant to be out there but you physically can’t because your body is simply failing,” I told my wife after the game.
Waynes entered the league as the 11th overall pick in the 2015 draft, entering Minnesota as a highly touted cornerback with lofty hopes. Waynes never made the Pro Bowl, but he was a competent defensive back in his first three seasons, with five interceptions and 26 passes defensed.
Waynes signed a three-year, $42 million deal with the Bengals in 2020, moving from Minnesota. Waynes, though, suffered a torn pectoral injury during training and will miss the whole 2020 season. Waynes’ season in 2021 wasn’t much better, as he only appeared in five games before being placed on injured reserve for the second time.
He was able to return for Cincinnati’s run to Super Bowl LVI in the postseason, but only as a special teams player. And as Waynes recounted, he wasn’t able to help his team as he’d like in their most important game due to an ankle injury.
After all of the frustration, Waynes believes it’s more important to preserve his physical health and spend time with his family and on his hunting-focused business. Even a reunion with a former Vikings assistant and past Vikings teammate couldn’t convince Waynes to give it another go.
“I actually almost went to Philly to go back with JG (Eagles defensive coordinator Jonathan Gannon) and Ant (safety Anthony Harris). But at that point I was like ‘I’m ready to be done,'” Waynes said. “Could I easily keep playing several more years? Yes. But I got a family, I want to be around with my kids more.
… “For me, I played, I lived the dream, I did it, I made enough money to where I can take care of my family. Being able to walk away on my own terms is always something I wanted to do. … There’s more to life than football. And I want to enjoy life outside of football without limping or walking in pain all the time and stuff like that. It’s bittersweet but I know at the end of the day it’s probably the right decision.”