Retirement has become the latest trend for troubled NFL players who face the wrath of Commissioner Roger Goodell.
The latest player to exercise the NFL equivalent of quitting in lieu of being fired is Cowboys defensive lineman Josh Brent. As pointed out earlier in the afternoon by Gantt, Brent will call it a career in lieu of having the league office sideline him for a year, or longer.
“This is the right decision for me, and something that I have given a lot of thought to,” Brent said in a statement provided to PFT. “I am at a point where my main focus is all about getting the priorities in my life in order. Those priorities are more important than football. Doing the right things in life are more important than football. I love the game very much. I love my teammates, but this is the right thing for me to do.”
It’s the right thing to do, because it’s the smart thing to do. Goodell never would have let Brent play this year, especially with charges of intoxication manslaughter pending. And if/when Brent pleaded guilty to or was convicted of the charge, Brent would have been suspended for at least a full year.
So Brent, who finds himself in a situation over which he has no control, exercised the only sliver of it that he has, choosing to end his career (at least for now) in order to prevent someone else from ending it for him.
Ravens linebacker Rolando McClain opted for that path earlier this year following his latest off-field incident, and the Patriots gave defensive lineman Kyle Love the chance to do the same, after he was diagnosed with diabetes. Before the Patriots abruptly cut tight end Aaron Hernandez, some wondered whether he would also “retire” while dealing with his legal situation.
Depending on the outcome of the looming trial (and the extent of any prison sentence), Brent can unretire at some point in the future, presumably with the quiet, back-room blessing of the league. And the Cowboys at that point will still hold his rights.
As the NFL and those who follow it come to grips with the reality that the arrest rate never will fall to zero, the retirement rate for guys who otherwise wouldn’t be retiring will continue to go up.