It’s tempting to view the recent retirements of Calvin Johnson and Jerod Mayo as the latest troubling signs about the future of the NFL.
The Lions’ receiver is reportedly ready to walk away at age 30 after nine seasons, while the Patriots’ linebacker is hanging up his cleats at 29 after eight years. The thinking is that as players become more educated about the physical toll football takes on them, they’re becoming less willing to subject themselves to it.
That may be true in rare instances, but it’s far from the new reality. The truth is, there’s so much money to be made, there’s not going to be a shortage any time soon of players willing to take the place of Johnson and Mayo.
Maybe because of that money – Johnson has earned more than $100 million in his career, Mayo more than $50 million – players who have struggled with injuries like they have may walk away sooner.
Yes, participation in youth football is down – with the safety of the sport being one reason. But on the high school level, it’s still twice as popular as any other sport.
In other words, don’t plan a funeral for the NFL just yet.