Is Andrew Luck’s Retirement the Beginning of a New Trend
Although the National Football League (NFL) offseason was filled with numerous league-changing events, one moment, in particular, stood out from the rest.
Although the National Football League (NFL) offseason was filled with numerous league-changing events, one moment, in particular, stood out from the rest. The Indianapolis Colts Quarterback Andrew Luck, the number one overall pick in the 2012 draft, shocked the NFL community and retired from the NFL on August 25, merely days before the league’s 100th season kicked off. Will Luck’s decision start a trend of more early retirements?
While early retirement is not uncommon, Luck’s decision was especially surprising considering that the Colts, Luck’s former team, were poised for a deep playoff run while Luck was expected to have a superb season given the strong supporting cast around him. Riddled with horrific neck and shoulder injuries throughout his seven-season career, Luck decided to hang up his cleats and forfeit tens of millions of dollars in future contract money. During his retirement speech, Luck cited the grind of rehabbing from one injury after the other that made him lose his love for the game: “I've been stuck in this [rehabilitation] process. I haven't been able to live the life I want to live. Taken the joy out of the game, and after 2016, when I played in pain and was unable to regularly practice, I made a vow to myself that I would not go down that path again.” Another notable NFL player, New England Patriots Tight End Rob Gronkowski, announced his retirement this offseason, ending his career relatively early. In his retirement press conference, Gronkowski said, “I needed to recover. I was not in a good place. Football was bringing me down. And I didn’t like it. And I was losing that joy in life. Like, the joy.” From this comment and others that he made in his retirement speech, one can see that the physical and mental health problems that he and Luck battled ultimately influenced their decision to retire. With the new perspective players have on mental health and the long term effects they are experiencing from consistently being injured, more players may follow Luck and Gronkowski’s footsteps. However, playing through the pain seems to be a more realistic option for players in the NFL.
When speculating, it is almost always more realistic to base one’s ideas on the norm rather than the exception. In this case, Luck and Gronkowski both had extensive injuries throughout their careers that have significantly inhibited their abilities to play the sport they love. In the NFL, however, players who have been able to play most of their careers and not suffer serious injuries have, in many cases, enjoyed long and fruitful careers. For example, Randy Moss was able to play 13 years in the NFL without any extreme injuries. Currently, Frank Gore, running back of the Buffalo Bills, has not experienced a significant amount of severe injuries in his career, allowing him to now enter his 14th NFL season.
Despite common perception, Gronkowski did not retire extremely early, although he may have had the physical ability to play more seasons. The superstar tight end was able to play eight seasons, play in four Pro Bowls, make first-team All-Pro selections, and most importantly, win three Super Bowls—accolades most players wouldn’t even imagine attaining. So, to say that Gronkowski had something left to prove is a stretch of the reality, as he had a dominant career— a career that has marked him as one of, if not the best, tight ends to ever play football. When it comes to injuries, Luck has been one of the more unlucky NFL players. Not only has he sustained a number of injuries, but most of these injuries have been severe, costing him the whole 2017 season in addition to many other games throughout his career. In his retirement speech, he made it clear that he kept his best interests in mind when deciding to retire from the NFL; he primarily attributed his decision to the fact that football was no longer giving him the joy that led him to pursue a professional career in the first place. As a result, Luck will be able to live a life without having to worry about money, injuries, and the stress of carrying a franchise for numerous years.
In conclusion, although Luck and Gronkowski had the potential to continue pursuing the sport, their respective careers were cut short by the frequency and severity of their injuries. As of now, early retirement won’t be a trend, especially now that the NFL has advanced injury analysis and increased awareness for mental health. In addition, the league has prioritized the financial support needed to accommodate the physical and mental health needs of its star players over the coming years. Ultimately, these strides will allow the league’s star players to keep pursuing the game they love and have long and fruitful careers.