NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell doesn’t believe that players are retiring early because the game is unsafe.
PFT asked Goodell about that in what turned out to be the last question of his annual “State of the League” press conference today, and Goodell said players’ retirements are personal decisions and not a reflection of heightened concerns about injuries. Asked specifically about Calvin Johnson’s expected retirement at the age of 30, Goodell praised Johnson but disagreed with the idea that his retirement is a bad sign for the league.
“Well, I disagree with the premise of your question to start with. You’re taking those issues and you’re combining them. I think each individual player makes his own individual decision about how long they play the game, who they play for, under what conditions they play. Those are individual decisions that we respect, and they’re made for different reasons. We will continue to support our players, we’ll continue to help them in those decision-making processes, but I don’t see so many people walking away from the game. I don’t agree with that. I see great athletes playing this game and loving to play this game. I talk to players all the time. They say, ‘I hope I can play forever.’ They can’t. That’s not possible. These guys love this game, they’re passionate about this game, and if you lose that passion, maybe it is time to move on. That happens in life. I don’t know what Calvin Johnson is balancing. He’s a great player and a great young man, and whatever it is, I support him. Whatever it is, if I can do something to help him, even if it’s at his next stage of life, I’d do that to.”
Several players retired early last year, including Patrick Willis at age 30, Jason Worilds at 27, Jake Locker at 26, Anthony Davis at 25 and Chris Borland at 24. If Johnson is the first in a wave of players to retire early again this year, Goodell may have to re-examine whether it’s a bad sign for players’ perceptions of what the game is doing to their long-term health.