At the age of 31, Jacob Bell, an offensive lineman for the Cincinnati Bengals, is quitting the game.
The recent suicide of Junior Seau was only one factor, Bell said, calling it “the cherry on top.”
“There were a lot of factors that went into it for me,” Bell, who recently signed a one-year deal with the Bengals after four years with the St. Louis Rams, told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch on Tuesday night. “I've had a lot of fun playing. I've seen a lot of things. I've played in a lot of games. The reality is that for me it came down to risk and reward. I think you've always got to weigh that out. At some point, you've got to kind of figure out what you're in the game for.
“One of my biggest concerns when it comes to the game in general is my personal health. One thing that's obviously on the minds of a lot of people lately is brain research and all the stuff that's going on with that. One of the big things that I thought about when I was considering this is how much do I love the game? How much can they pay me to take away my health and my future and being able to be with my family and just have a healthy lifestyle?”
Bell, a fifth-round draft pick out of Miami by the Tennessee Titans, started 100 games over his eight-year career and admitted he has considered retiring for about a year. Jim Thomas asked if Junior Seau’s suicide was a catalyst for making the decision now.
“That's a good question,” he said. “I've been thinking about some different things, thinking about health, thinking about the future of my family having to deal with some kind of crazy disease that nobody even knows about, where people want their brains studied after they're dead. Donating their brains to research.
“It's just crazy to see how someone like Junior Seau took his own life over — God knows what he was really struggling and dealing with. But you have to believe it came from the game of football. I want to get out before the game makes me get out, where I can get out on my own terms, and I can limit the amount of stress and negative impact that the game would leave on me.”
At this point, researchers are only beginning to compile information on the long-range effects of concussions and constant hits to the head. That so much is unknown was a factor for Bell, who said he has no problems at the moment.
“Is a concussion, ‘Oh, I saw stars?’ ” Bell said. “Is a concussion, ‘Oh, I got a little wobbly for a second — I'm okay now?’ Or is a concussion, ‘I got hit and I can't go back in the game because I truly don't know where I'm at and what day it is?’
“If you're telling me ‘I'm seeing stars’ is some sort of concussion, then you're getting a couple a week. You're going to get a minimum 30 concussions in a season. That just gives you a ballpark figure of what people are truly dealing with.”
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