As NFL free agency continues forth, veterans of the game are finding new teams. One such individual who had been searching for a new contract, and potentially a rebirth of his career, was former defensive linemen for the Green Bay Packers B.J. Raji. It would not have been a surprise to anyone if the 29 year old had, in fact, been granted a contract by an NFL team. However, that is not the case. The 6 year veteran of the game, and onetime pro-bowler, has opted for NFL retirement.
Raji has decided to step away from football, for now. As reported, B.J. has decided to take at least a year off from the NFL, and possibly more. The basis of his departure is the lack of commitment he can offer to a team. It is anticipated that he will return for the 2017 season, but that remains uncertain. Until then, it may be unjustified to classify this as a retirement, but merely a break. His decision, however, prompts the thoughts of if there is a new epidemic within the game of football, and if it is as bad as it may appear.
There is a growing trend in professional sport, most notoriously the NFL, of having players step away during their perceived prime. It could be argued that this trend began with one Barry Sanders, who retired shortly after turning 31 years old in 1999. Other notable individuals to walk away from the game prematurely include: Jim Brown, Pat Tillman, Patrick Willis. The trend of players walking away from the game they love lost steam during the first decade of the 2000’s, but the NFL retirement moved has picked up pace once again.
One of the most memorable NFL retirements was Chris Borland’s decision to walk away at the age of 24. His reasoning was based on the health risk with playing the violent sport. It baffled most individuals to see a man, who was in-line to become a defensive star for the San Francisco 49ers, walk away from millions of dollars in favor of self-happiness and desire for longevity in life. Another such retirement is Calvin Johnson’s decision to walk away from the game, while he still can.
The sudden reappearance of early retirement in the NFL, on its surface, seems like a disaster waiting to happen. This disaster has been festering for years and with the release of a New York Times story about the NFL, we could see a cultural shift in the way we perceive truth from the league.
What do you think readers, is the NFL retirement age getting younger?
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