Despite being a sixth-round pick, Rex Burkhead managed to play 10 NFL seasons. The veteran running back did not play during the 2023 campaign and will not attempt to come back.
The former Bengals, Patriots and Texans back announced his retirement Monday. This will wrap a productive career as a supplementary back, with Burkhead’s most notable work coming in New England. Burkhead, 33, did venture to Las Vegas for a Raiders workout while Josh Jacobs was away on the franchise tag last summer, but no reunion between he and Josh McDaniels came to pass.
The Patriots initially signed Burkhead during the 2017 offseason, adding him while letting LeGarrette Blount walk in free agency. Burkhead and James White represented constants in the Pats’ backfield over the ensuing four years, with the likes of Dion Lewis, Sony Michel, Damien Harris and Cordarrelle Patterson mixing in at various points. The Patriots mostly used Burkhead as a backup running back and an auxiliary pass catcher. He managed eight touchdowns in 2017 (three receiving) but made his most memorable contributions during the ’18 playoffs. The Patriots saved an IR-return slot — back when NFL rules only allowed teams to bring two players off IR in a season — for Burkhead, who had suffered an early-season concussion.
Although the Chiefs’ rise was imminent, the Patriots delayed that ascent when they ousted the No. 1-seeded team in the 2018 AFC championship game. The Pats won an overtime thriller in Kansas City. Finishing with 64 scrimmage yards that night, Burkhead scored in the final minute of regulation to give the Pats a lead and then secured the visitors a walk-off win after a 2-yard TD to punctuate the first drive of overtime. Burkhead collected a Super Bowl ring soon after.
Burkhead was part of a crowded Bengals backfield earlier in the 2010s, seeing Giovani Bernard and Jeremy Hill garner most of the work. The Nebraska alum only surpassed 100 scrimmage yards in one of his four Cincinnati seasons — his 2016 platform year — but the Patriots gave Burkhead three contracts — the most notable a three-year, $9.75MM accord in 2018.
Closing out his career with the Texans, Burkhead signed two more deals with the rebuilding team — one run by ex-Patriots exec Nick Caserio. Burkhead delivered a 149-yard showing to help the Texans upset the Chargers in Week 16 of that season; that result ended up denying the Bolts a playoff berth. At 31, Burkhead finished the 2021 season with a career-high 427 rushing yards. Over the course of his career, Burkhead earned just more than $18MM.