Arizona Cardinals running back Rashard Mendenhall hinted at it not too long ago, but made it official, as he announced through his blog on The Huffington Post that he was retiring from the NFL.
Mendenhall, only 26 years old, is leaving football and doing so on his own terms.
He is fully recovered from his ACL injury from two years ago, but, after earning a lot of money, having personal and team success and being able to do good for causes he believes in, he is stepping away.
"So when they ask me why I want to leave the NFL at the age of 26, I tell them that I've greatly enjoyed my time, but I no longer wish to put my body at risk for the sake of entertainment," he explains.
He does not like the current construct of the business of the NFL and how fans perceive players. The constant criticism by fans without complete knowledge, the Internet attacks, the fantasy world and more all have made him grow weary of the world of football.
He loves the game, but not in its current form. He gets to walk away with his health.
Honestly, good for him. It sounds like he has been wise with his money, allowing him to not have to worry about his financial future. He can make life decisions based on his personal fulfillment and satisfaction.
As football fans, it is hard to understand on many levels. On one level, it is hard to fathom why anyone would step away from a life so many of us only dream we could have. On another level, we can't quite comprehend the idea of just quitting our job in our 20s to just do what we want. Most of us have personal, financial and familial responsibilities that keep us from just doing something so drastic.
But such is the life of a football player.
Too many players sacrifice their bodies to the point where they struggle the rest of their life with pain and are not able to do things that many of us can do with our families. They are in a career that ends right about the time most of us are beginning to prosper in ours. And then, on top of that, because they have spent so much of their lives playing football, many of them do not have other career skills. That leaves a long, long time to be without a way to work and be productive.
There will be Cardinals fans that say "good riddance" to a player that was not a star, but he was a valuable teammate and contributor. he was a leader to the young running backs on the team. He was productive, even if he wasn't spectacular.
But regardless of how you feel towards Rashard Mendenhall the Arizona Cardinals player or former Arizona Cardinals player, you have to respect the decision he made. He was able to step away from a career that would damage him physically, one that had changed in his mind, and move on without being stuck unhappily as many people are with their careers. He is very fortunate, but I certainly can not condemn such a decision.
Even though he will likely never read this article, I salute him and wish him the best. I hope the rest of the Cardinals community can do the same.
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