A.J. Tarpley made national news when he retired from the NFL after his rookie year due to concerns for the safety of his brain. The Bills' linebacker had just finished a promising first season, but repeated concussions seemed to open his eyes to the dangers of the sport.
Three years later, Tarpley's back in the game. He's making a comeback with the San Diego Fleet of the AAF and hopes to turn that into another NFL contract.
But don't be confused: Tarpley hasn't changed his stance on brain injuries. It seems he just missed football.
"Obviously, concussions happen in games. No one likes them, but they do happen," Tarpley said. "I wouldn't say my opinion has necessarily changed. I try to stay up to date as far as if there are any new studies or research, opinions – whatever it may be that come out. I try and keep myself informed as much as I can, but I also admitted it in my piece for Sports Illustrated, there isn't really a definitive what if? If X happens, what will Y be? I continually evaluate what do I want to do with my life? Who do I want to be?"
Tarpley doesn't seem to be making a comeback because he needs money – he turned his Stanford degree into a job on Wall Street.
If the AAF goes well for him, Tarpley's next task will be convincing NFL teams to take a shot on a player who already retired once. If he does that, maybe we'll see him on Sundays in the fall once again. Officially, the Bills waived Tarpley when he decided to retire, so they don't own his rights. He'd be free to sign with any team that wanted him.
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