June 15, 2021

Luke Kuechly retires: Is early retirement in NFL a trend? Only for the elite money makers

The best tight end of all time, the most heralded quarterback prospect since John Elway and now the best middle linebacker of the 2010s have all retired in the past year before their 30th birthday.

Luke Kuechly’s surprise news Tuesday night added to the growing list of players — great players — choosing to step away from football at a relatively early age.

As you may have read when Rob Gronkowski or Andrew Luck retired, some view this as a trend in this violent game. More and more, one may say, players are choosing their long-term health over the game they love.

No doubt players today are more aware of the dangers of this game. In Kuechly’s case, he’s suffered three known concussions. He knows more about brain injuries and their effects than most people on the other side of medical school.

What’s always missing in that analysis, though, is that these players not only have more information available to them now, but they also have more money. The decision to walk away from football can be made easier (but mind you, not easy) with financial security for their lives and their next generation.

The trend, from my perspective, is not that elite football players en masse are deciding to retire at an early age. The trend is that elite football players with the futures secured are choosing to retire at an early age.

In Gronkowski’s case, injuries mounted over the years playing for a franchise where he had to subscribe to a way that was incongruent with his personality. He left football a three-time Super Bowl champion with nothing else to prove (at least to this writer) about his place at the top of the all-time list at his position.

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