(Reuters) – The frustration that drove Barry Sanders into early retirement continues to hang over one of the greatest running backs in NFL history with his Detroit Lions no closer to a trip to a Super Bowl this year than when he graced the gridiron.
One of only eight players to rush for over 2,000 yards in a single season, Sanders played his entire 10-year career in Lions Honolulu blue and silver before shocking fans when, still in his prime, he announced after the 1998 campaign he was hanging up his cleats.
Two decades later following an estrangement and reconciliation with the Lions, Sanders is back in the Motor City as a team ambassador and advisor, assisting in the search for a new coach and general manager after a 5-11 season during which Bob Quinn and Matt Patricia were fired in November.
“It certainly has been frustrating and all you can do is address it the best way you know how and that’s what we are doing, Sanders, a Pro Bowler in each of his 10 NFL seasons told Reuters. “As a fan you do (get frustrated).
“You look at our situation, when you lose double-digit games in a season and you lose double-digit games in consecutive seasons you realize you got problems and you’ve got to address them.”
Although Sanders never got to the Super Bowl as a player, he has since attended a few as a fan and others promoting products including this year’s championship game in Tampa where he is representing Rocket Mortgage Super Bowl Squares Sweepstakes, which last year awarded fans $1.75 million in prize money.
Those post playing career visits to the NFL championship game underscored Sanders’ frustration at not being able to get any closer to a Lombardi trophy than the NFC Championship game in 1992 when the Lions were crushed 41-10 by Washington.
“Yeah, when you are there you realize it even more so,” said Sanders, whose impressive trophy case does include a Heisman or NFL Rookie of the Year honors.
“The fact I ended up being a player and got relatively close you realize what a special prize it is to be able to play in it but it’s not a guarantee, a lot of things have to go right.”
(Reporting by Steve Keating in Toronto, Editing by Ed Osmond)