SportsPulse: USA TODAY Sports’ Dan Wolken reacts to the news that Andrew Luck will retire from the NFL and explains why we should all be understanding of this decision.
The NFL was dealt a shocking blow Saturday night when Andrew Luck announced that he is retiring from the game.
The Indianapolis Colts quarterback was dealing with yet another frustrating injury, and during a brief news conference Saturday night, the mental anguish that he has endured over the last several years was evident.
“I’ve been stuck in this process,” Luck said, referring to repeated injury setbacks. “I haven’t been able to live the life I want to live. It’s taken the joy out of this game … The only way forward for me is to remove myself from football.”
He also said, “I’m unable to pour my heart and soul into this position, which would have not only sold myself short, but my team as well.”
So rather than put himself through more anguish, and rather than continue to hold the Colts franchise hostage any longer, Luck did the only thing that felt right to him: He called it a career.
This latest battle with injury involved a calf ailment that had spread to Luck’s ankle. He hadn’t made an appearance this preseason, and it appeared unlikely that he would be ready to open the regular season. Luck said he didn’t know if this injury was the “final straw,” but more so the constant cycle of injury and rehab, and a lack of progress during this process. He described the last several years as a painful cycle.
And so he has decided to hang it up, just months after orchestrating a 2018 campaign that saw him lead the Colts to the playoffs before earning Comeback Player of the Year honors. Luck had missed the entire 2017 season while recovering from a shoulder injury that required surgery.
The leg and shoulder injuries rank among a long list of ailments Luck had battled during his six-year career. The list also includes torn cartilage in two ribs, a partially torn abdomen, a lacerated kidney and at least one concussion.
Injury prevented Luck and the NFL world from seeing just how great he could have been. When he entered the league as the first overall pick of the 2012 draft, everyone predicted greatness for the former Stanford quarterback. He joined the Colts with the lofty task of succeeding Peyton Manning, and he appeared undaunted as he embraced that challenge, put the Colts on his back and led them to three consecutive playoff appearances to start his career.
But then came the injuries and the vicious cycle. He tried to fight. Again and again. But eventually, the mental anguish, coupled with the physical, proved too crippling a weight for the quarterback.
“I’m in pain,” he said. “I’m still in pain.”
Amazingly, Colts fans at Lucas Oil Stadium booed their franchise quarterback upon hearing news of his retirement. And that’s the saddest and most disgusting aspect of this whole story.
Indianapolis Colts quarterback Andrew Luck, after reports of his retirement, leaves Lucas Oil Stadium to boos. Aug. 24, 2019
Matt Kryger, IndyStar
It reflects a blatant disrespect and lack of understanding of just how much Luck and other football players put themselves through to play this game. Fans see the bright lights and handsome contract numbers (during his career, Luck signed deals worth $22 million and $120 million), but they don’t see, hear or feel the punishment that comes along with it. They don’t endure the depressing moments players endure while trying to fight through wave after wave of debilitating pain, or repeated surgeries and subsequent setbacks.
Far too many fans view football players as beings placed here for their enjoyment, and nothing more. They see players as spoiled and selfish, and if they don’t live up to their expectations, criticism rains down on them. Cruel and unfair.
Don’t think Luck didn’t hear the boos. “Yeah. It hurt. I’ll be honest,” Luck said.
Of course it hurt. He’s human.
Luck deserved better.
His hard work, athleticism and intelligence should have positioned him to become one of the all-time greats at his position. But this is a cruel game, and sometimes it doesn’t reward players for all of the sacrifices they make. Unfortunately, sometimes hard work isn’t enough. Luck couldn’t evade the injury misfortunes. He had no control of his body’s inability to recover from blow after blow.
And he definitely deserved better from Colts fans he tried so hard to battle for.
Luck didn’t wimp out, as those booing fans believe. He made the best situation for himself and his teammates. He could have tried to suck it up and play. But he knew he wouldn’t be giving them his best. He knew he wouldn’t be able to the best version of himself for his family, either.
And so, even though he’s only 29 and has multiple years left on a handsome contract, he’s walking away from the game. It takes a lot to admit that you can’t do something. It takes a lot to make such an admission knowing that criticism will follow, because people are selfish.
But Andrew Luck displayed the same strength in his decision as he did battling again and again to deliver the Colts to victories, or to come back from one injury after another. And for that, he should be thanked. Those within the Colts organization certainly understand and appreciate what Luck gave them and endured.
Hopefully, in time, all who call themselves true football fans will as well.