Cowboys LB Leighton Vander Esch (neck) retiring

Former Dallas Cowboys linebacker Leighton Vander Esch announced Monday that he is medically retiring from the NFL after six seasons.The team released the 28-year-old veteran on Friday with a failed physical designation due to a lingering neck injury.”I love the game of football so much, and my body won’t cooperate any longer,” Vander Esch said in a statement released by the Cowboys. “I cherished every moment of my NFL career, and it has been such a blessing to play the game for as long as I have played.”In 71 career NFL games (65 starts) with the Cowboys, the 2018 first-round draft pick had 469 tackles, 3.5 sacks, three forced fumbles, two fumble recoveries and three interceptions. He was a Pro Bowl selection as a rookie in 2018.”Seldom do you come across a player like Leighton, who grew up playing eight-man football only to first play the 11-man game at the major collegiate level and excel,” said Cowboys owner and general manager Jerry Jones. “His passion and love for the game was contagious, and from the moment he arrived, he has been a difference maker. His grit, toughness, motivation, determination and football IQ will be sorely missed. Leighton also embodied the strong character and personal qualities that make him much more than an accomplished player.