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Is Jacob Bell The Smartest (Ex) Football Player In The World?
Eight-year NFL veteran Jacob Bell, who this past season signed a one-year deal with the Cincinnati Bengals, has instead decided to hang up his cleats and retire from the game. Citing the death of Junior Seau and overall health concerns, Bell chose to walk away while he still could, rather than play out another year. Which raises the question: is Jacob Bell a genius?
Would you walk away from a yearly salary of $890,000? It would have to be a pretty shitty job, right? At the very least, it would have to make you fear for your life. Which is exactly what football has done to Jacob Bell. Here’s what he told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch about his decision to leave the money on the table and retire:
“The reality is that for me it came down to risk and reward. I think you’ve always got to weigh that out. At some point, you’ve got to kind of figure out what you’re in the game for.
“One of my biggest concerns when it comes to the game in general is my personal health. One thing that’s obviously on the minds of a lot of people lately is brain research and all the stuff that’s going on with that. One of the big things that I thought about when I was considering this is how much do I love the game? How much can they pay me to take away my health and my future and being able to be with my family and just have a healthy lifestyle?”
Of course, this is an issue that has gotten a lot of press with the apparent suicide of Junior Seau. Bell was asked if Seau’s death had anything to do with his decision — namely, would he still be playing if not for Seau’s demise:
“That’s a good question… It’s just crazy to see how someone like Junior Seau took his own life over — God knows what he was really struggling and dealing with. But you have to believe it came from the game of football. I want to get out before the game makes me get out, where I can get out on my own terms, and I can limit the amount of stress and negative impact that the game would leave on me.”
However, Bell thought about the impact of football on his body well before this. Back when he played for the Tennessee Titans, he played under coach Mike Munchak, who served as a shining example of what football can do to you:
“I used to watch [Munchak] as he was running around the practice field for a half hour before practice, and I’d see the way he’d run. He played 13 seasons, he played all 13 seasons with no cartilage in his knees. And I thought to myself, I don’t want to look like that.”
He doesn’t need to describe what Munchak runs like — we can figure that part out ourselves. But it does beg the question, why aren’t more football players following in Bell’s footsteps?
Bell, who says he averaged, by the loosest definition “30 concussions a season,” is perhaps the smartest (former) player in the game. He made his millions (he once commanded $6 million a season as a starting guard), and now he can enjoy them at a relatively young, healthy age. It wouldn’t surprise us to see more NFL players following in his footsteps — and in the footsteps of others like Barry Sanders, who quit while he was ahead — and walking away from big money in order to keep the most valuable thing of all: life itself.
There’s a reason most NFL careers conk out after a few seasons: the body isn’t meant for that kind of punishment. It’s unfortunate that it has taken irreversible tragedies for players to start figuring that out.
h/t Business Insider, AP photo via
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