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A goodbye to Megatron and the NFL’s reputation

Detroit Lions wide receiver Calvin Johnson announced last Sunday he is retiring, a move that shocked the nation.

Johnson, who has the moniker “Megatron,” is not only the Lions’ best player, but he is universally regarded as one of the top receivers in the NFL. He is only 30 years old and still in his prime. Many believe Johnson still had another seven or eight years in the NFL. At 6’5” and 240 lbs, Johnson is a can’t-miss physical specimen and is virtually unguardable for any cornerback in the league.

So, the burning question around the NFL in regards to Johnson’s retirement is “Why?” Has he fallen out of love with the game of football? Did he love it in the first place? Is Detroit really so bad that Johnson had to follow in the footsteps of former Lions icon Barry Sanders and get out of there ASAP?

Johnson said he plans on returning to his alma mater Georgia Tech to finish getting his degree. But who would choose homework, essays and cafeteria food over the glamorous lifestyle of a NFL superstar?

I’m not buying it.

My theory on Megatron’s retirement is one that reflects a larger trend around the NFL lately: the brutality of the game.

Questions regarding the safety of football have been a hot topic in the media lately. Former players are reporting they have brain trauma and mental issues stemming from all the concussions and contact to the head sustained during their NFL careers.

Former Steelers wide receiver Antwaan Randle El, who retired only four years ago, has reported that he has trouble remembering basic every day things and walking up and down stairs. Players have even committed suicide, noting their heads hadn’t been right since they retired from the NFL.

With many studies and the release of the movie, “Concussion,” starring Will Smith, it’s clear the NFL can’t ignore these claims any longer. There are more and more parents barring their children from playing football because of these concerns.

I think Johnson retired to try to save his brain and his health from permanent damage before it’s too late. And it’s a decision I can’t blame him for.

I don’t think the NFL is totally at fault. They didn’t create football, and football, by nature, is dangerous. Players know the risks coming in, and I think most of them are OK with it. Many jobs have their risks and dangers, but not every job pays millions like the NFL does. The benefit is well worth the risk to these players.

I played football until my sophomore year of high school. I was quarterback in a system with only five linemen, which is rare for players that young. I took way more sacks than I should have. Up to that point, I accumulated six concussions playing football. It got ao bad, the doctor strongly advised me to stop playing. Hesitantly, I listened.

I don’t regret my decision to stop playing, but if I was good enough to have had a chance at the NFL (which I wasn’t), I wouldn’t have even thought about listening to that doctor.

The NFL makes so much money that they shouldn’t hesitate to make player-safety, during and after a player’s career, a priority. Currently, some measures are in place but certainly not enough.

I don’t think Johnson will be the last star player to shock the league and leave early. I hope it sends a message every time something like this happens. If research and testimonies don’t urge the NFL to address this problem, then maybe losing star players and all the money that they bring in, will.

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