The Cowboys’ offseason needs changed suddenly Monday afternoon.
Five-time Pro Bowl center Travis Frederick announced unexpectedly that he’s retiring at 29.
“This was not an easy decision,” Frederick said in a statement. “I thank the Jones family, the entire Cowboys organization, and my teammates for allowing me to go on this wild ride.”
The Cowboys drafted Frederick 31st overall in 2013. He started every game, and earned a Pro Bowl berth, each season from 2013-17. Frederick missed the entire 2018 season sidelined with Guillain-Barre Syndrome, an autoimmune disease.
He regained his strength enough to return for the 2019 season, again starting every game and going to the Pro Bowl.
“It was a difficult year for me,” Frederick said. “Each day I faced a struggle: I could no longer perform at my highest level. Playing ‘well’ is not what I expect of myself and is not what my teammates deserve. Because of this, I know my days as a football player are done. I am proud of what I have accomplished in my career, and I walk away with my head held high.”
Frederick said that his 2018 experience wondering if he would be forced to retire led him to accept a reality he knew he would face at some point.
“I also, surprisingly, found myself welcoming the moment,” Frederick wrote. “I was ready for the next stage of my life; however, the competitor in me would not accept going out without returning to the field.”
After a sixth and final season, he no longer will.
The Cowboys re-signed center/guard Joe Looney last week. Looney started all 16 games in Frederick’s absence in 2018. Dallas also selected center/guard Connor McGovern in the third round of the 2019 NFL draft. He missed his entire rookie season with a pectoral strain.
The Cowboys invested heavily in building, as owner Jerry Jones wrote Monday, “one of the most talented and skilled NFL offensive lines that has been assembled.” In addition to Frederick, the Cowboys devoted recent first-round selections to perennial Pro Bowlers in right guard Zack Martin and left tackle Tyron Smith. Right tackle La’el Collins was considered a first-round talent before off-field allegations left him undrafted. The line has powered a strong run game in recent seasons fueled by Pro Bowler Ezekiel Elliott.
Dallas hired Mike McCarthy as its head coach in January after nearly a decade under Jason Garrett’s helm.
Jones praised Frederick for his play and resilience against Guillain-Barre in a statement. He also lauded Frederick’s efforts in the community, which he has continued recently with a fundraising campaign to feed the community in wake of COVID-19 challenges.
“As a contributor to our community, a family man and a professional person, he has distinguished himself as an exemplary representative of this organization,” Jones wrote. “And for the rest of his life, when his name is mentioned in the same sentence with the Dallas Cowboys, he will be lifting the standards of excellence and esteem that has characterized the history of our proud franchise.”
Follow USA TODAY Sports’ Jori Epstein on Twitter @JoriEpstein.
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