METAIRIE, La. — New Orleans Saints safety Malcolm Jenkins announced his retirement Wednesday after an indelible 13-year NFL career that saw him win Super Bowls with two different franchises and emerge as a leader in the social justice movement.
Jenkins, 34, originally joined the Saints as a first-round draft pick out of Ohio State and played for New Orleans from 2009 to 2013 before spending six years with the Philadelphia Eagles from 2014 to 2019 and finishing his career back in New Orleans from 2020 to 2021.
He won Super Bowls with the Saints in 2009 and Eagles in 2017, and he was selected to the Pro Bowl in 2015, 2017 and 2018.
Congrats brother! Welcome to the rest of your life. We know you’ll be just as amazing in your new chapter!
See full video on YouTube! pic.twitter.com/H33g1ISF6v
— Ryan Clark (@Realrclark25) March 30, 2022
“I played the game at the highest level for 13 seasons,” Jenkins said while sharing his decision on The Pivot podcast. “And I have accomplished Super Bowls, Pro Bowl, all that there is to do in this game. And when I came in, I always wanted to make an impact on the game on and off the field. And I just feel like at this point I’ve accomplished that.”
The 6-foot, 204-pounder, who began his career as a cornerback, has 21 career interceptions, 20 forced fumbles and eight touchdowns scored. He played in 199 regular-season games with 191 starts, plus another 14 playoff games.
Jenkins had a remarkable 133-game ironman streak that was ended by the league’s COVID-19 protocols last year. Before that, he hadn’t missed a game since 2013.
“You know, you grind and put everything into this game in order to play at a certain level,” Jenkins said. “You sacrifice your body, your time, your mental … And I’m like, ‘If I can do this, at this level, amongst the greatest in the world at what I’m doing, I’m excited to put that energy into something else.’ It’s that time.
“And I know that that’s a huge blessing, and I don’t take that for granted, to be able to choose to walk away from the game.”
Grateful 🙏🏾 After 13 seasons, my time on the football field has come to an end. I’m just a boy from Piscataway, who through this game, became a champion in the sport and a champion for the people. My time on the field may be over, but I’ll never stop fighting for the people. ✊🏾🖤 pic.twitter.com/vd9u5eNU0H
— Malcolm Jenkins (@MalcolmJenkins) March 30, 2022
Jenkins was an undisputed leader on both teams and in both communities. Both chose him as their nominee for the NFL’s Walter Payton Man of the Year award in different seasons. And he won the NFL Players Association’s Byron “Whizzer” White Award for his community efforts in 2017.
Not only was Jenkins a co-founder of the Players Coalition — a group of NFL player activists that later expanded into other sports — but he also started a production company called Listen Up Media that produced the documentary “Black Boys.” And he joined CNN as a political analyst, among many other community and business endeavors.
He helped organize a “Listen and Learn” tour with NFL commissioner Roger Goodell and Eagles owner Jeffrey Lurie while in Philadelphia. He began raising his first during the national anthem in 2016 after seeking the blessing of an Air Force sergeant he had befriended in New Orleans. And in one of his most memorable and powerful acts in 2018, Jenkins silently addressed a group of reporters in Philadelphia by holding up a series of signs that read, “You aren’t listening” and detailed facts about the criminal justice system, police-involved shootings and the efforts being made by fellow players in the community.
Jenkins said he will now continue those efforts in addition to other areas he hasn’t explored — including a scripted television comedy series he has been developing about his life.
Jenkins arguably played his best football in Philadelphia. But he said the defenses he played with over his final two seasons in New Orleans were the two best he ever played on. He said he would be torn if he had to choose whether to retire as a Saint or an Eagle.
— Philadelphia Eagles (@Eagles) March 30, 2022
“But I do know that I’ve made a lasting impact on both of these franchises — and more importantly these franchises and cities made a lasting impact on my life,” Jenkins said.
Saints coach Dennis Allen, who was Jenkins’ position coach when he first entered the league, said in a statement that he was proud to have “the opportunity to coach Malcolm and congratulate him on an excellent career.”
“The combination of skill, awareness and intelligence allowed Malcolm to be in position to make plays all over the field,” Allen said. “To put up the numbers he did for as long as he did speaks both to his talent and his commitment to his craft. He was also a great leader in the locker room and important contributor to the community.”
The Saints have now lost two of their three starting safeties after free agent Marcus Williams signed with the Baltimore Ravens. They still have nickel safety C.J. Gardner-Johnson, and they replaced Williams with former New York Jets starter Marcus Maye. But they could be on the lookout for another replacement.