The NFL’s continuing concussion crisis hit close to home for the Buffalo Bills on Wednesday night.
Second-year linebacker AJ Tarpley announced his retirement because of concussions via a post on his Instagram page. In his post, Tarpley said he suffered the third and fourth concussions of his career last season.
“After months of introspection, I am retiring from football,” he said. “I am walking away from the game I love to preserve my future health.
“This decision is the hardest I’ve made yet, but after much research and contemplation I believe it’s what is best for me going forward.”
Tarpley, 23, made the Bills as an undrafted free agent out of Stanford last season. He appeared in 14 games, starting the final two, and finished with eight tackles, two interceptions, a sack and a forced fumble.
In the photo that accompanies his announcement, Tarpley is celebrating after an interception against the New York Jets in the season finale. That play, the final one of his career, sealed the Bills’ 22-17 win.
“The only thing comforting about not knowing this play would be the last of my career, is knowing that I never took a second for granted,” Tarpley said.
A native of California, Tarpley played in 54 games with Stanford, registering 243 tackles, 16.5 tackles for a loss, 5.0 sacks and four interceptions.
“I’d like to extend my gratitude to everyone that helped me along the way,” he said. “Thank you to my coaches at Wayzata and Stanford, and to lifelong friends that I was blessed to call teammates. You all molded me into the man I am today. To my family, I’ll never be able to repay your unwavering support and love, I just hope that I can continue to show how gracious I am and make you proud.
“I also want to thank the Buffalo Bills organization, coaches, and teammates for helping me fulfill my lifelong dream in the NFL. Last but not least, I’m proud to be a part of ‘BillsMafia’ and playing in front of the best fans in the league is something I won’t forget. Thank you God for all that you have blessed me. I’m excited for my future.”
Tarpley earned just over $415,000 last season, and walks away from a potential salary of $525,000 if he made the team this year.
Tarpley becomes the second NFL linebacker in as many seasons to walk away from the game after his rookie year. Former San Francisco 49ers linebacker Chris Borland retired last year at 24.
“I think an old adage is that you play till the wheels fall off,” Borland told the Detroit Free Press last week. “You play till you can’t anymore. You have to be carried off the field. I think that’ll change.”
Story topics: concussions