The NFL lost one of its top offensive players today, as Detroit wide receiver Calvin Johnson announced his retirement at the age of 30. It wasn’t the biggest surprise in the world, as it was reported a few months ago that Johnson was considering hanging them up after the 2015 season.
But still, this is rough news for any football fan. Johnson was the most dominant receiver in the league for several years, and while he has been unseated over the last year or two, he is still a freak of nature who was the ultimate matchup nightmare for defenses – too big for most cornerbacks, too fast for just about everyone else. Like Barry Sanders before him, Johnson’s retirement signaled a Lions star going out in his prime, and the man known as “Megatron” will end his career with 721 receptions for 11,619 yards and 83 touchdowns.
Johnson’s retirement is the latest in a series of disturbing trends for the NFL. Marshawn Lynch is 29 and also announced his retirement this offseason. A number of other players, such as former San Francisco linebacker Chris Borland, also have retired far earlier than usual over the last handful of years (Borland announced his retirement at age 24). While Lynch and Johnson didn’t say this, Borland is one of several early retirees who have said that their retirements are due to their desire to protect their brains.
Could this be somewhat of an epidemic for the NFL? It’s hard to say, but the number of players retiring early isn’t a great look for the league. Perhaps it needs to take a more proactive approach to how it handles injuries, or maybe it needs to make some rule changes to make sure players’ brains aren’t at such a high risk of long-term injuries when players are older.