We all heard the news last night. Our cell phones buzzed with ESPN updates while we painfully guzzled our cheap, car oil beer from whatever local chain restaurant has the best television setup. Then we rushed to scroll through every social media app we have to see how many blue checkmark accounts could confirm it.
Confused. Shocked. Skeptical. Why shouldn’t we be? Andrew Luck’s retirement was broken by Adam Schefter. Two weeks before the 2019 NFL regular season starts. While Luck’s team is playing a preseason game and he’s on the sideline. Who does that?
The Colts were an exciting team that many had penciled in as the favorite in the AFC South and a legitimate contender. This wasn’t some borderline 7-9 team.
Andrew Luck is 29 years old. He’s a generational talent. His combination of arm ability, mobility, IQ, and maturity made him arguably the best quarterback prospect in several decades in the lead-up to the 2012 NFL Draft.
Luck was first overall pick in 2012 and the successor to Peyton Manning. You don’t cut ties with Peyton unless you have THE guy on the way. The Colts did. Luck was THE guy.
But the Colts had the number one pick seven years ago for a reason. They were a team short on talent, thanks to poor management. And up until 2017 when Chris Ballard came in to replace Ryan Grigson, they were still a poorly managed team with a talent deficit. Except they had a real quarterback to cover up the problems.
Due to Indianapolis management’s ineptitude, Luck was tossed around like a rag doll for most of this NFL career. He led the league in sacks and hits taken for several years. He suffered numerous injuries because of those hits. Torn cartilage in two ribs, a torn abdominal muscle, a lacerated kidney, a concussion, a torn labrum, a bad ankle, and who knows what else that wasn’t publicized?
Forget being a team doctor. You could have made your livelihood by being an Andrew Luck doctor. It’s no wonder Luck decided to step away from football.
Luck became a husband in March and recently announced he’ll become a father. Despite delusional fans believing that professional athletes need to give one hundred percent of their hearts and minds to their respective sports and never leave anything for something else, Luck is a prime example of why that common yet ridiculous perspective is so irrational.
In a hastily arranged press conference in which he announced his retirement a day earlier than he anticipated, Luck basically told the public that he has a life outside of football. That he wants to be there for his wife and his child. That he has had enough of the beatings and agony from playing such a violent game. It takes a toll. I can’t sit here and bash on him for his decision.
The same people who are upset with Luck for retiring are the same ones who say, “He knew the risks when he stepped onto the field” whenever a player gets hurt and has something to add about the dangers, injuries, and safety risks involved with the game. The players either continues the string of ailments or removes himself from the game while he still has his body...and his mind.
Frankly, Luck made the smart choice. Rob Gronkowski did the same thing several months ago when he also retired at age 29. If both of them wanted to continue playing for another eight years, they could have.
Life goes beyond the gridiron. There is more to it.
If Luck and Gronk’s decisions made you uncomfortable, I have some rough news that might burst your bubble. These early retirements are going to happen more and more frequently. I could spend hours discussing how violent and physically deteriorating football is, or I could just copy and paste 437 Google pages with links to CTE data.
Andrew Luck is a smart man. He knows it’s not worth it. Why would it be? So we can all go back to that same chain restaurant and argue about quarterbacks over a round of Miller Lites?
I must confess. I did not like it when the news first broke. The football fan in me wants to see the stars play. The instinct of being a fan thinks a service is stripped away from me when stars are absent. But I thought about it long and hard for a good ten seconds before realizing that I would have done the same thing. It’s easy to say you’ll play until age 45 when you’ve had only had one injury in your entire career, eleven years ago. That’s not a knock on Tom Brady; he has done a wonderful job staying healthy and the Patriots have been incredible at protecting him. I’ll bet that if Brady had the same injury history as Luck, continuing to play as a 45-year old quarterback would be a pipe dream. Brady, eternal as he seems, would be long gone by now.
Luck is a 29 year old man with most of his life ahead of him. So I’ll say it again and you say it with me:
There. Is. More. To. Life. Than. Football.
That is how every player should feel. Every organization should also understand that.
The perfect example is your Houston Texans. If they keep failing to address their dire shortcomings at offensive line, who’s to say Deshaun Watson doesn’t follow Andrew Luck’s lead at some point? The injuries could stockpile, and Watson could stick a fork in this football thing to move on to something that won’t take years off his life.
Building a “legend” out of a career is a total arbitrary, media-driven thing that players do not care about nearly as much as we think they do. Players are going to cash their checks, play while they can, and walk out the metaphorical door. That’s what they should do.
Football will be with us for a long time. I am not trying to imply otherwise. I am just making a simple point. Namely, that I can understand why Andrew Luck walked away, that I applaud him for it, and that he won’t be the last to decide to end his career earlier than football fans think he should.
Heaven forbid a man takes care of himself. Here’s wishing Andrew Luck luck in his next chapter.