Good for Chris Borland. He made an immediate decision through a long-term lens and he seems to be at peace walking away from the game he loves and played so vigorously. Borland’s health was obviously a big concern for him and he put a ton of time and research into his decision to retire at the age of 24. Worrying about your long-term health in the National Football League is not conducive to short-term productivity.
But his decision was shocking. This guy is a banger and all one need do is watch the tape when he was on the field to know how much Borland loved to play the game. He was a football player.
The NFL and NFLPA had to cringe. Borland could have played this game for a long, long time and made a lot of money. The fact he’s retiring because he doesn’t want to risk getting CTE (Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy) is the NFL’s and NFLPA’s worst nightmare. The game has already kicked into hyper-drive, trying to control the risks of playing football and the last thing they want to see is a young, healthy man that bloodied his knuckles, lustily, retire. This is not the image/news the game needs or wants.
It’s a personal decision that every player has got to make and unless you’re a souled-out brother you can’t play the game of football the right way. There will always be guys that will embrace the risk, gladly. I think it’s a knee-jerk response to say this is the beginning of the end for football and there are people out there saying just that. Since the days of gladiators, there have always been people that will be willing to risk everything for a “better life.”
From a tangible perspective, this is a coup de grace, a killing blow, for Trent Baalke and the 49ers defense. Borland was going to step right in for the retired Patrick Willis, like he did last season. He was a physical presence in the middle with over 100 tackles in 14 games. The 49ers were on their way to not missing a beat with Borland in the middle.
Look what’s happened to the 49ers front 7 since last season: Patrick Willis retired; Justin Smith may retire; Ray McDonald is gone; NaVorro Bowman is a question mark; Aldon Smith is a question mark…unbelievable.
This news will impact the NFC West and could prove to be a season changer for the 49ers. But, more importantly, it will impact the game of football more than any other early retirement this offseason. The kid was 24, good, loved the game and could have made millions…and none of it mattered.