The news from Indianapolis sent shockwaves not only across the NFL but professional sports as a whole.
Colts quarterback Andrew Luck, the reigning NFL Comeback Player of the Year after coming back from a career-threatening shoulder injury, shockingly announced his retirement from the sport Saturday evening.
Luck cited “a constant cycle of pain, rehab, and come back” in his life after injuring his lower leg during the league’s All-Star game, the Pro Bowl, and being unable to play much of the preseason due to it.
Not only did the Colts lose their star signal-caller and the league lose one of their brightest stars, Luck’s retirement also brings about many questions as to the psyche of today’s athletes and their perceptions on life after sports.
I’m sure that many national pundits will come up with a myriad of reasons why Luck pulled the trigger on his early retirement. In the next few days, terms like toughness, lack of heart, and selfishness will be batted around.
The first thing to understand about Andrew Luck is his toughness. During his years in Indianapolis, Luck, for the most part, took a beating on the field in those seven seasons, suffering injuries to his ribs, his shoulder, and his kidneys. But during the whole of his career, Luck never complained and still managed to carry the Colts to success. So that eliminates toughness and heart from the conversation.
The other term -- selfishness -- might need to be discussed further. But not for the reasons you might be thinking.
Andrew Luck made a decision to protect the one entity he has control of -- himself. When an athlete finally looks in the mirror and decides it's time to walk away, it's time to walk away. Luck made that decision shy of his 30th birthday and his eighth season in the NFL. Honestly, he had good reason to make it.
If you consider the safety issues of the day in football like CTE concussion protocol and the type of grotesque injuries players are suffering that are ending careers, Luck made the difficult decision that his future was much more at risk than the Colts' future. Indianapolis will continue to play football regardless of who plays quarterback; Luck has one shot at his life.
Is it selfish to protect yourself and your future? Yes, because that thinking is about yourself and your personal well-being. Is that wrong?
Let’s be even more honest, professional sports are selfish, too. Franchises are about the bottom line -- money. That’s the reality. Of course, fans hear about the value of the team and its accomplishments, but really it is all about cold hard cash and how much can be made. It’s the nature of the beast. As much as the Colts love Luck, if he continued to play injured or miss considerably more time on the injured list, the Colts would have moved on to the next franchise quarterback out there. It would have happened.
Does that make Indianapolis selfish?
Football is a brutal sport. Not everyone is a football player. When you consider the conditioning they must have to play, the knowledge of how to execute hundreds of plays effectively, and the grueling schedules that must be kept, professional football players more than earn their salaries.
However, what good is that money if those players cannot enjoy it and their lives in good health?
Andrew Luck made a personal decision to do the one thing that would guarantee he would be protected and stay standing -- walk away from the sport while he could.
Is that selfish to you?
Shane Shackleford is a regional sportswriter from Speedwell, Tenn. You can follow Shane at KySportsStyle.com Magazine, A Sea of Blue, and local print media.