San Francisco 49ers linebacker Chris Borland shocked the NFL world by retiring after a stellar rookie season at age 24.
It’s an important, courageous decision not made lightly by a player who is thinking well beyond his playing years.
He isn’t the first player to step away from the game early and he won’t be the last. Jim Brown, Barry Sanders and Robert Smith were superstar running backs, made plenty of money and decided to walk away in the prime of their careers.
Borland's not even the first to do so this offseason, as Patrick Willis (30), Maurice Jones-Drew (29), Jake Locker (26) and Jason Worilds (27) have each retired with plenty of gas left in the tank.
You can think it’s stupid for a rising star who hasn’t made his big paycheck yet — Borland made just under $600,000 in 2014 — to retire from a dream career basked in the glory of the NFL spotlight.
The game is more violent than ever. The players are bigger and faster than ever. But no one has the right to tell anyone else what to do in this situation. The key is informed decision-making.
It’s no different than smoking cigarettes or eating Big Macs everyday. They will both kill you eventually, but this is America and if you want to live off special sauce and nicotine, you are allowed to.
Just as long as you know what’s happening.
If an athlete wants to make millions of dollars playing a sport knowing full well what the risks are who are we to tell them what to do?
"I think when you sign up for this job, you know what you're getting into,” said Lions offensive lineman Dominic Raiola during the NFL’s concussion lawsuit two years ago.
Raiola is making an informed decision and it’s his to make. Just like Borland, Locker, Willis or any parent who is faced with the choice to allow their child to play football.
Is this a concerning trend for the sport? Not according to the bank accounts. The TV ratings are through the roof, the Super Bowl is more popular than ever and the league is printing money with the biggest partnership contracts any sport has ever seen.
The game isn’t going anywhere, and as long as we are all informed, we should be allowed to make whatever decisions we want. Whether we are an All-Pro linebacker who decides to retire at 24 or a concerned parent.