The Pro Football Concussion Report

A Fan's Look at Head Injuries and the Concussion Crisis in Football

CTE Concerns? 3 NFL Players Announce Surprise Retirement

Patrick Willis and his foster mom, Julie Finley (ESPN)
Patrick Willis and his foster mom, Julie Finley (ESPN)


Three NFL players unexpectedly announced their retirement from the game this week, including possible future Hall-of-Famer, San Francisco 49er LB Patrick Willis. Willis, 30 years old, was selected for the Pro Bowl after each of his first 7 seasons and was chosen as a first-team All Pro linebacker 5 of his 8 seasons. Although none of the three specifically mentioned concussions, CTE or concerns about long-term brain damage, you have to wonder if those potential health issues were part of their logic.

“Honestly, I pay attention to guys when they’re finished playing, walking around like they’ve got no hips and they can’t play with their kids. They can barely walk. People see that and they feel sorry, but they don’t realize it’s because he played a few extra years.” ~ Patrick Willis


Willis was featured in a great ESPN documentary in 2011 that discussed his childhood troubles with his estranged father, and subsequently his and his three siblings move into a new, loving, foster home.

Also announcing their retirement from the game was former Tennessee Titans quarterback Jake Locker and Pittsburgh Steelers outside linebacker Jason Worilds. Locker, 26 years old, the 8th pick in the first round of the 2011 NFL draft, became a free agent this week.


“I no longer have the burning desire necessary to play the game for a living.” ~ Jake Locker


Jason Worilds, 27 years old, announced his retirement on Twitter which was rumored to be inspired by Worilds’ desire to work for his religion, the Jehovah’s Witnesses.


It’s very unusual (perhaps unprecedented) for three high profile players such as these, who all were looking at the prospect of multi-million dollar contracts to walk away from the NFL this early. Only Willis mentioned his health, but it’s difficult to believe that after all of the attention focused on the possibility of long-term brain damage as a result of playing football, that these players didn’t consider that risk when weighing their choices.

Willis was in the middle of a $53M contract, Locker was estimated to be looking at multi-year contracts worth $3.5M per year and Worilds could have expected to earn $7-$8M per year.


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