After Lorenzo Alexander announced his retirement from professional football in 2020, the Buffalo Bills were prepared for life without their perennial Walter Payton Man of the Year award nominee. Tremaine Edmunds and Matt Milano would continue playing 100 percent of the time, and the Bills would rely on nickel defenders and veteran linebacker A.J. Klein for the upcoming season.
Still, they planned on keeping in touch with Alexander, just in case. Speaking to the media in May, head coach Sean McDermott mentioned that “he’s reached out a couple times between the time where he left and now and he reminds me he’s still available.”
Of course, plans change. Edmunds and Milano weren’t able to play uninterrupted, and Alexander decided he wasn’t looking to return to action after all when the Bills called him up. As part of an interview on What’s Next with Eric Wood, Alexander talked about that decision. Wood asked, “is there ever that itch, like, ‘man, could I give it one more run?’”
No, replied Alexander. That’s even taking into account that “a couple teams” called him up last year, including the Bills.
“I thought about it,” he said, “but no, I was alright.”
The call came “early in the season”, which would line up with Buffalo’s early-season linebacker problems.
Thanks to injuries in the season opener, the Bills were starting A.J. Klein and Tyrel Dodson in their Week 2 win over the Miami Dolphins. Tremaine Edmunds and Matt Milano returned to action in Week 3, but Edmunds was playing through a painful shoulder injury. Milano would suffer another injury in Week 4 and continue to miss time throughout the season.
As he continued to train in the weight room in 2020, Alexander thought about a return but decided he was ready to move on with life.
“I know I can do it, but there’s no way I’m gonna go out there and put my body through that type of trauma ever again,” he recounted to Wood. Physical fitness and practice drills were one thing, but instead of running down the field to crash into players on kickoff coverage, he’d prefer to work on his golf game and spend time with his family.
The Bills, on their end, powered through some early season struggles and stabilized their linebacker unit later in the year. They can’t replace Alexander, but they can work through a future without him.