Former 49ers linebacker Chris Borland said he wasn’t looking to set a trend, but he does think he might become part of one.
After retiring from the game after one season for what he termed health concerns, Borland said he can see more and more players choosing that path.
“Well, I think an old adage is that you play till the wheels fall off,” Borland said, via Dave Birkett of the Detroit Free Press. “You play till you can’t anymore. You have to be carried off the field. I think that’ll change.
“I think historically, Jim Brown and Barry Sanders are viewed as early retirements. I think whenever a guy decides to walk away is when he and his family decides he’s not going to play a game anymore. And even if you play for 20 years and are a Hall-of-Famer, you still have a life to live after football. So I think that’s always been a cliché, but that’s starting to get real, tangible results.”
Borland was taking part in a discussion in Detroit for the documentary “Requiem For A Running Back” which chronicles the post-football struggles of former Packers running back Lew Carpenter, who was diagnosed after his death with CTE.
And while Borland said he didn’t view Calvin Johnson’s retirement as an early one, he was concerned about the diagnosis of CTE in Tyler Sash, after the former Giants safety overdosed on painkillers.
“To see a guy who’s probably taken less hits to the head than me to have a stage of CTE similar to Junior Seau was eye-opening,” Borland said of Sash, who had five documented concussions.
Borland was willing to step away early, but there are a number of players such as DeAndre Levy, who admitted last week he still loved the game even while criticizing the tone some owners have taken regarding the link between CTE and football.
“It could be the greatest game in the world, but simultaneously maybe the worst,” Borland said during the panel discussion of the movie. “And the crux of the issue for me, I think, is that what makes it so great is also what makes it detrimental and scary and everything, the violence. So I don’t regret my decision. Miss the game, but that time was going to come at a certain point anyway, so moved on with my life.”
And while it still may be too early to call it a trend, Borland made a conscious decision to step away when he was still in demand, which not every retiring player is.