Let’s set the stage: It’s a relatively mild Saturday evening of NFL preseason action. While week 3 of the tune-up games traditionally showcases an extended run for starters on both sides of the ball, this year has proven to be the exact opposite.
NFL teams have decided they want to do all they can during the preseason to eliminate injury risk. No team wants a situation like the Houston Texans now have with star running back Lamar Miller out for the year with a knee injury. A particularly interesting case of this had been Indianapolis Colts star quarterback Andrew Luck.
A lower leg injury had hampered him throughout training camp, leaving him off the practice field with no timetable for a return. During the team’s third preseason game against the Chicago Bears, news leaked about his retirement.
As he jogged off the field into the locker room, Luck was showered with a series of boos from fans who were disgruntled to learn that the promise of a potential playoff berth is now likely gone.
An emotional press conference ensued, which brought Luck to tears. It left the NFL community in shock about what had just taken place.
Throughout his career, Luck endured several challenging injuries. These injuries include a lacerated kidney, torn rib cartilage, a concussion and a shoulder injury, the extent of which is still unknown. Luck endured all of these on top of years of punishment while taking hits behind a poorly constructed offensive line that left him in harm’s way.
Despite the positive approach he took to the pressure he faced by consistently complimenting opposing players for laying down a nice hit on him, the scars of battle had formed. In his press conference Luck said that he was no longer able to enjoy the game of football.
On an emotional level, he could no longer prepare himself to be the best player he could be.
Luck is not the first star NFL player in his prime to retire early from football. Former New England Patriots tight end Rob Gronkowski retired this past offseason for many of the same reasons as Luck. Calvin Johnson, Barry Sanders, Jim Brown, Tiki Barber, Marvin Harrison and several other NFL legends can also be included in the “retired too early” category.
Historically we have not seen a consistent pattern of players from one single era retire early. Instead, a somewhat random assortment of stars scattered across a myriad of generations have fallen into the category.
Concussions have been a hot topic issue in the NFL for some time now, but new questions have arisen outside of just head injuries.
How many surgeries are too many? What age should people start playing football? Are the NFL and other major football leagues doing enough for player safety? Are humans even meant to play football?
Some argue that maybe it’s time for American sports media to stop arguing over whether or not booing a player for retiring is OK or not. Instead, they should continue the discussion on better ways for us to grow our youth football talent in a healthy manner.
As we close the decade of the 2010s, are guys like Andrew Luck and Rob Gronkowski the tip of the iceberg for NFL players retiring amid their prime for the next decade? Only time will tell.
By Will Pembroke | Guest Writer