Marshawn Lynch & Calvin Johnson: Proof That NFL Players Aren’t Superhuman
Marshawn Lynch has been a top five running back in the NFL across the nine seasons that he played in the league. His regular season yardage and touchdown numbers are prolific, and he has indesputably been the best playoff running back of the last decade. And despite battling injuries this past season, there are only three running backs that have played in more games than Lynch has since he entered the league in 2007.
According to ESPN's Adam Schefter though, he is planning to say an early goodbye to his incredible career.
This leaves us all wondering why, after one subpar year might the player known as "Beast Mode" be retiring. My best guess is that it's the same reason that the man also known as "Megatron" has decided to hang up his cleats after the exact same amount of time in the league:
Because despite what their nicknames suggest, they are not superheroes.
In this day and age, a nine-year career is a short one for most superstar NFL players. Sports medicine, physical therapy and conditioning have come such a long way over the last twenty years that any great or even decent football player can play at least a decade even after suffering what used to be career-ending injuries. But that doesn't mean they should be playing that long.
It's just the same as the concussion issue in the NFL. Yes players can play after being concussed. That doesn't mean that they should.
And players like Lynch and Johnson push their bodies to the physical limits of what even elite athletes are capable of. Because of their stature and physical prowess, they have endured more brutal physicality than the average NFL player. In football, you don't earn superhuman nicknames without being able to do what other regular players can't; and that usually involves looking like you're not getting your ass kicked even when you are.
So now we have two of the NFL's most purely talented players in the last ten years retiring before the end of their prime. Now granted, these two players have been paid substantially enough that they can afford to retire so early; but the amount of money in salary and endorsements they stand to lose by leaving the NFL after just nine years is certainly not chump change. It's tens of millions of dollars.
Plus in Lynch's case especially, they are giving up the chance at winning a Super Bowl. Lynch has played in two Super Bowls and won one; and he is on a team that can and probably will be competitive for even more years to come. Johnson is tied to Detroit for the foreseeable future and his talents have gone largely unrewarded as far as postseason success is concerned. In order for him to be part of a winning franchise he'd have to renegotiate his contract in a trade, or wait until he's old and past his prime and end up on an elite team that needs his veteran skillset. That's obviously not ideal for a player like Megatron.
So here's the real conundrum: should players like Lynch and Johnson be more careful with their bodies and change the way they play in order to protect the longevity of their careers? Or should they go all out for eight or nine seasons, earn the nicknames and the endorsements and the contracts and the prestige all the while knowing that if they want to have any quality of life after the NFL, they'll need to retire early?
On one hand, it's encouraging to see players taking their future health into such serious consideration. On the other hand, it's hard not to be disappointed that we are potentially missing out on so many more epic performances from two of the best football players in the game. In end though, I think the former appraoch prevails. As long as we continue to demand more from our professional athletes than they are capable of giving, we will end up with stories of tragedy; and I personally am glad that Lynch and Johnson are being proactive in preventing themselves from ending up that way.
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