Punch Drunk Wonderland

Patrick Willis and Chris Borland show us the “New NFL”

It’s been a tough offseason for the San Francisco 49ers. First, Patrick Willis announced that he will be retiring after eight seasons. Next, second year star Chris Borland announced that he will also be retiring for fear of “brain injury”. This is the new, informed NFL and it seems more than reasonable that we’re going to start seeing shorter and shorter careers. Be prepared.

With recent discoveries involving CTE (Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy) and the potential dangers that come along with the thousands of small and large shots to the head football players take over the course of their careers, there’s little surprise that we’re going to see a culture change. We’ve already seen major changes to player safety rules and procedures related to concussions. With knowledge comes power, and now we’re starting to see players take action.

cte-01Gone are the days when the information just isn’t available or when the research hadn’t been done. Teams, team doctors, and the NFL itself can’t sweep these health risks under the rug so the players may not realize the dangers that comes along with the sport they play. But, what does it mean? There are dangers involved with many professions, and those who choose to be involved with dangerous professions assume the risk when they take the job. The difference nowadays for football players is they are starting to know the real risks of their profession and they are able to start making informed decisions as such. For some that means a change in style of play. For others it means shortened careers and early retirement. With multi-million dollar contracts, players now know they can (and probably should) get their money while they can and get out while they’re healthy.

This doesn’t mean every NFL player is going to start retiring young. What it does mean is they at least have the information available to make informed decisions about how long they want to play the game. Sure, the face of the game is going to change. As I mentioned, we’re already seeing a great many changes in the name of player safety. The average career length for NFL players will probably begin to decrease. But, this is the new NFL. Knowledge is power for these players.

K. Smelser About K. Smelser
Kelly Smelser is Owner/Senior Writer for Punch Drunk Wonderland and PDFantasy Sports. Architect of the PDW fantasy football world and general spinster of NFL and Fantasy Football news and analysis. Long walks on the beach, sunsets, and other such niceties are also fine...