Six-time Pro Bowl wide receiver Calvin Johnson released a joint statement with the Detroit Lions today, explaining that he is considering retirement after nine NFL seasons.
“I am currently evaluating options for my future,” said Johnson, who hopes to finalize his choice quickly. “I would expect to have a decision regarding this matter in the not-too-distant future.”
On the surface, it may seem curious why a star player like Johnson, who is still owed $51 million over the next three seasons, would walk away from the game at the age of 30.
But taking a closer look, “Megatron” wasn’t as iron-clad as his nickname suggested. He dealt with nagging injuries, which limited him in practice, but only forced him to miss three games over the past three seasons. So although he never suffered any “major” injuries such as a torn ACL, it is clear Johnson is hurting.
“He is simply in pain,” wrote Lions analyst Terry Foster of CBS Detroit.
If Johnson does walk away, it could be another example of an early departure from the NFL for precautionary reasons.
24-year-old linebacker Chris Borland retired this past off-season, saying that playing football wasn’t “worth the risk” of repeated head trauma.
“I just honestly want to do what’s best for my health,” said Borland in an interview with ESPN’s “Outside the Lines.”
Johnson isn’t necessarily contemplating retirement because of a concussion. But after dealing with many injuries over his career, he may not want to risk a serious head injury, or any other serious injuries for that matter, just to get another paycheck.
And now with movies like “Concussion” hitting the box-office, the player safety issue is becoming more mainstream, causing some people to question the sport they love.
Just recently, a 25-year-old former football player passed away, and an autopsy revealed chronic brain encephalopathy, linked to repeated head trauma. This is the youngest person to be diagnosed with CTE.
Football is dangerous, without a doubt. Calvin Johnson retiring could indicate a changing NFL landscape, one where player safety ranks more important than making a few million dollars.