He was one of the top players at his position. He was set to make $24 million. Yet at only 30 years old, Calvin Johnson decided to step away from the NFL, and leave it all behind. This may not seem like a colossal occurrence, however, he is not the only one to do this.
During the broadcast of the Super Bowl, Seattle running back, Marshawn Lynch announced his retirement at just 29 years of age, and late Tuesday afternoon, Jerod Mayo, also 29, stated that, he too, would be stepping down from the game that had defined his life.
Last year experienced a similar trend. The big announcements came from that of all-pro linebacker, Patrick Willis, as well as his teammate Chris Borland. Borland made headlines with his announcement as he was only 23-years-old. He also profiled his reasons for leaving, stating that he was concerned for his future health.
It seems as though more and more players are calling it a quits before 30, and this trend does not show any signs of declining. Now there have always been players who retire early, but what sets this recent influx apart is the amount of high profile players who are walking away from the game.
What the NFL is dealing with here is an issue of astronomical proportions. It may not seem too significant as of right now, but this is only the beginning. It will not be long before playing into your 30’s will be a rarity.
As concussion and CTE information has become more readily available, players have been educating themselves on the potential risks and health hazards that can arise from the playing the sport of football.
Now I am sure all of you at one point or another have heard someone say that they would never let their child play football. Fans have said this, analyst have said this, and even players have said this. However, even with people refusing to let their child play, the NFL will always have athletes chomping at the bit to play professional football. The real problem lies in how fast the turnover of these incoming talent classes will be.
If the average retirement age for a player becomes 30 years old, then the NFL will be burning through personnel at a rate that has never been seen in professional sports. There will not be enough skilled, young players to come up and fill the shoes of the retiring players.
In the next 10 years, as players begin to retire earlier and earlier into their careers, the overall entertainment of the league is going to decline. The star players are going to quit young, and cash out, and, after all, who could blame them.
After everything that we know today about medical issues that come with playing football, there is no need to stay in and try to squeeze out a few more years and increase your risk for serious, future brain injuries. There is just no need for it anymore, and if a player is able to save and put his money away, then he should have no problem stepping away prematurely.
As we enter into the next era of the NFL, the average career length is going to decrease. Players are beginning to smarten up, and coming to the realization that trying to eke a few more years may not be the best option for them. So be prepared for a much different NFL come the next decade, and be ready for the career of your favorite player to over before you know it.
By Jake Cianci