Players react to Chris Borland’s retirement with surprise, respect

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The shocking news that 49ers linebacker Chris Borland will retire from the NFL after one season because he’s concerned about concussions was met with surprise throughout the football world. But many players reacted by saying they respected Borland — even as they said they wouldn’t do the same thing.

Dozens of NFL players shared their reactions on Twitter, with most saying that they think Borland is doing the right thing if he no longer believes the rewards of the NFL are worth the risks. At the same time, Borland’s decision to quit after one year is clearly not the decision most players would make.

Borland’s fellow 49ers linebacker Chase Thomas wrote, “Shocked to hear the news about my dude Borland, but I totally understand his decision to retire. Much respect.”

Another 49er, cornerback Tramaine Brock, said, “I understand but still shocked.”

Colts long snapper Matt Overton wrote, “Guys deciding to walk away from the game at a young age is a great reminder to us all that life has a bigger picture. I wish them the best!”

“WOW. I loved Chris Borland’s game but I can’t fault him for calling it quits,” Rams defensive end Chris Long wrote. “His concerns are real. Still it takes a man to do the logical. I don’t feel bad for Borland. I feel happy for him. He’s made a tough choice.”

Said Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson, “Pleasure playing with you, Chris Borland [at Wisconsin] and against you for the 49ers. Praying for you.”

But while players didn’t criticize Borland’s retirement, they wouldn’t walk away this early themselves.

Said Seahawks linebacker Bobby Wagner, “No offense to anyone but I’m playing until I can’t anymore. I love this game too much.”

Wagner’s opinion is how most players feel: The vast majority of players play until they can’t anymore. But Borland’s decision, along with the retirements of Patrick Willis and Jason Worilds, may show that an increasingly significant number of players would rather walk away too soon instead of too late.

70 responses to “Players react to Chris Borland’s retirement with surprise, respect

  1. hundreds of thousands wish they were born with the physical gifts to play in the NFL. CB was born with that lottery ticket to make millions in s short time but made a very brave decision to go another route.

    Something tells me that by making this decision he has the balls and brains to be successful in life no mater what his future holds.

    Good luck to him

  2. What a gutsy and admirable decision. He is turning down millions of dollars to play the most popular sport in the US because health is is first and foremost what matters, and he felt it wasn’t worth the risk.

    Borland had a wonderful rookie season and it was a joy to watch him play.

  3. This is a direct result of the new rookie contracts. Borland would have earned under $3m total in his first 4 years. He decided that wasn’t worth the risks.

    Perhaps rookie contracts should be for 3 years max? Certainly by that time a team would know if they had drafted the latest reincarnation of Brian Bosworth or JaMarcus Russell.

    With shorter rookie contracts, the grizzled vets would probably have to take a little bit of a pay cut. Why should a 3rd year linebacker on a team earn $1m/yr while a 6th year linebacker of roughly equal ability earn $5m/yr?

  4. As more get educated, more will leave the game before it destroys them and their families.

    The league and the NFLPA have mismanaged this issue and the younger and smarter guys are getting out.

    The NFL will lose the brightest and have trouble recruiting new meat. Every unit needs 5 smart guys to keep the flow. Once the signal callers stop playing and new ones are at a lower standard the game will suffer.

    It could have been dealt with but NFL just screws the golden geese.

  5. Or….there’s a deeper reason why players would rather retire than play for the 49ers.

  6. This is the only time I remember a player at this point in his career retiring but the Worilds retirement….remember Napoleon Kaufman? He was 27 and that was 15 years ago for the SAME reason.

    And Willis got out before it was to much at 30 years old with bad feet.

    Just saying, I don’t know if it points to more players getting out early but I think it’s more just in one offseason makes it feel that way.

  7. The difference between the 49’ers and Seahawks is perfectly summarized by Wagner: “I love this game too much.” The difference between drafting players with ability and drafting players with passion and an inner-fire to compete everyday. Have a nice decade of rebuilding, 49’ers!


  9. I understand. I had cousin who played in the NFL back in the 1970s. He broke his foot early in the season and the trainers lied about it, so he played on a broken foot for the rest of the, including playoffs all the way through the Superbowl (he was on the losing team, such is life).

    In the off-season, when he was still having a lot of pain and difficulties, he went to an independent doctor and found out his foot had been broken and would never heal properly. He was, bascially, forced to retire at that point.

    He had some operations on it, but he’s had had to use a cane to walk since his retirement. And the NFL doesn’t do crap for him (or any of his team-mates).

    But you know who else doesn’t? The NFLPA. They really don’t care about the old-guys that built the league. They, just like the owners, are all about themselves.

    So, I for one, totally respect Borland’s decision. Nobody else will look out for him.

  10. Love Borland. Respect his decision. But as a Niners fan I gotta ask … Couldn’t he have finished his soul-searching a week or two earlier so we could have picked up a top ILB in free agency? Epiphanies can be reached in February, too.

  11. Just because you can doesn’t mean you have to play in the NFL. Good luck to him as he enters the next phase of his life — many players can’t afford to leave because its all they can do. Borland obviously doesn’t have that concern —- good for him.

  12. NFL’s PR spin has already begun. Last night, NFL Network reported the news and cited ‘health concerns’, like he’s worried about his knee or something. The word ‘concussion’ was never mentioned.

  13. Theyre talking smack about him in the locker rooms. Will also be an on field dis when the season starts. After a big hit ” why dont you go join Borland!”

  14. I respect the guys that do everything they can to play as long as they can. And I respect the guys that decide to walk away early rather than risk limping away too late. It’s his decision and life. Good luck Chris Borland.

  15. Respect. It takes a man with big ones to admit walk away from money and fame in the NFL. You only have one you for your loved ones. Money can’t replace that. Better to leave with your health and life intact.

  16. A reminder that this is just a game, and that these men sacrifice their bodies and minds to perform for us. This man saw the bigger picture and decided that the money and fame that he was destined to make wasn’t worth the risk of injury and long term well being. Good luck to you Chris in everything you choose to do.

  17. Props to Borland, If I had one iota of his brains, or heart, i would do the same. That being said, I would smash my head, or someone else’s head through a brick wall for a few 100k , and I know I am not the only one. This guy is a smart kid who wants to enjoy his life. He comes from a different school then me. I wish him the best.. But in my life, money is the end game, not happiness or love..

  18. I guess getting turned into a speed bump by Marshawn Lynch has a lingering effect on a person.

  19. Very true. Hope he has a solid college degree or other plans to fall back on. One thing is for sure, 49ers are going to be terrible this year

  20. Honestly, who could blame the man for thinking about his health?

    The NFL still hasn’t figured out how to manufacture a safe helmet.

    “Fact is”, when the NFL allowed their players to use a “Pro Cap”, helmet protector, the players were much safer than the NFL helmets used today.

    In the past, players like Mark Kelso and Steve Wallace extended their careers and retired on their own terms, when their careers were threatened due to concussions.

    Both Wallace and Kelso were allowed to use “the Pro Cap”…and it worked.

    But today, for reasons only the NFL can explain, they no longer allow players to use the Pro Cap…go figure.

    What is worse than the NFL’s actions concerning the ProCap…the sports media turns a blind eye toward the use of the Pro Cap.

    The sports media will not even ask the NFL why players like Borland are not allowed to use a Pro Cap.

    It is an absolutely assine decision by Roger Goodell, to ban the use of the Pro Cap and the sports media needs to put his butt on the hot seat.

    There is a better solution and that solution has been around since the 1980s.

    Shame on the NFL !

  21. He obviously got his bell rung good in training camp and has played this game a long time already and has almost certainly had concussions in his younger days. Look at his film at Wisconsin….guy was a machine.

    Love the Whiner fans talking about how selfish he is all over other networks, Twitter and FB. That’s rich. Guy is very likely walking away from maybe a $100 million plus career, but he’s selfish.


  22. largent80 says:
    Mar 17, 2015 8:46 AM
    NFL’s PR spin has already begun. Last night, NFL Network reported the news and cited ‘health concerns’, like he’s worried about his knee or something. The word ‘concussion’ was never mentioned.

    He said he made his decision after consulting with family members, concussion researchers, friends and current and former teammates, as well as studying what is known about the relationship between football and neurodegenerative disease.

  23. I’m a Wisconsin fan, and as I said before, we loved him in Wisconsin because he played like his hair was on fire his whole career. Welcome home Chris!

  24. He made more money in his short stint in the NFL than most people will make in a lifetime. Unless he is very foolish with it, invests wisely, he’ll be comfortable for the rest of his life.

  25. Respect him for his decision and the guts to make it, HOWEVER I can’t understand people who act like this concussion issue is something new and they’ve never heard of it. This guy played football through high school and college so this isn’t something new. Again though I do respect him for his decision and respect him big time for passing up the money to make sure he has his health. Good luck in your future journeys.

  26. If you’ve had a family member or cared for a person with CTE or other degenerative brain disorder you would not be quick to judge. It is heartbreaking.

  27. I think Willis’s reasons (toes/foot) are far different than Borland’s and Worild’s.

    Jake Locker’s entire body was broken.

  28. RaidersIn2019, life isn’t easy but do you think a NFL linebacker has a cush, easy job?

    Chris Borland has a degree from UW-Madison — one of the few DI powerhouse institutions that doesn’t lower acceptance/eligibility standards for its athletes — and he is only one year out of school. With his work ethic, he’ll be just fine in the white collar world. I’m sure he can coach high school if he wants to stay around the game.

    Hope the brain damage he’s suffered to date is manageable and he has a good, long life.

  29. Not familiar with Borland but am aware of the few NFL players who’ve recently decided to call it a career.

    I don’t have a problem with his decision, good for him, a matter of fact. I think his concern for his health and long term affect the game on his body overweighed playing and making millions. That’s gotta be hard.

  30. He didn’t make that much money. He has to pay a good portion back now that he retired.

    The NFL will be a shell of itself within 10 years. Listening to you armchair players talk about how you would trade places with him and keep playing is hysterical. You all had the same chances growing up – you chose long ago to sit behind a desk knowing you couldn’t take the punishment.

  31. I am glad for him.

    A few years back, while living in Houston, I got to see in several food shows Earl Campbell, being dragged in a wheelchair by family members to photo booths where the fans could take pictures with him. He could barely speak. It was sad, very sad.

    On the other hand I got to see Dan Pastorini (QB Oilers late 70’s) and he seemed perfectly fine.

    For one it worked out, for the other it did not. There is no way in hell I would like to end like Campbell, no matter how much money and glory.

  32. Leave it to a Seahawks fan to beat his chest with borrowed pride. I think you should probably note that the difference between the Seahawks and 49ers includes the fact that Harbaugh would have run the ball and won the Super Bowl.

  33. If he wants to do something with his life great but I think this is getting WAY TOO MUCH airtime. He doesn’t want to play football, that’s fine, good luck in your future endeavours, let’s move on.

  34. This isn’t an epidemic of players retiring early. It just seems that way because there have been a few so close together. For every guy who would rather retire early, there are 100’s that will play til they’re forced out. The NFL is fine. Sucks for the 49ers though.

  35. blabidibla says: Mar 17, 2015 10:35 AM
    “The NFL will be a shell of itself within 10 years. Listening to you armchair players talk about how you would trade places with him and keep playing is hysterical. You all had the same chances growing up – you chose long ago to sit behind a desk knowing you couldn’t take the punishment.”

    Are you serious? For every player that retires early there are a hundred former DI players willing to take their place who are playing on practice squads. The NFL will shorten rookie contracts if it becomes an increasing problem. Not many football players have the academic background to make even 10% of what they’d make playing in the NFL.

    As for the second part…seriously? Go watch a pack of 10 year olds playing ANY sport and tell me you can’t tell the difference between those with natural physical talent and those without. You’re basically implying ANYONE can be an NFL player.

  36. I’ve got to wonder if there is more to this decision. Did his shoulder injury flare up or did his ankle not heal properly to the point where he wasn’t going to be able to play any more? Basically, does he get a better financial deal if he retires by choice instead of being physically unable to perform?

  37. Former Vikings RB Robert Smith retired well ahead of his time too. He was worried about his knees and not being able to walk when he was 50. Very classy moves by all these players that are unselfish and think of life without football; I’m sure that it’s a tough decision by all involved.

  38. Maxwell went on to say he’s the best linebacker in the league, so he’s already been hit in the head a few too many times.

  39. It’s more than just the concussions. Read stories about how difficult it is for retired players to do simple things like getting out of bed or even being able to fall asleep because their back, neck, legs are hurting so much.

    I completely understand guys like Kam Chancellor and Chris Conte saying they love playing so much and would rather live fewer years than not enjoy the glory of pro football. That’s their decision. However, I don’t think they fully grasp the difficulties just living and doing normal activities or how CTE affects their families even 10-20 years after football. Read stories about Jim McMahon or Tony Dorsett and how forgetful they are or how they scare their families with violent outbursts.

  40. At least Borland has a legit reason…..

    Derrick Rose says “I don’t want to be in my meetings all sore or be at my son’s graduation all sore just because of something I did in the past”

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