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Myers: Ferguson leaving money, saving health in retirement

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While he spoke candidly about concussions in December, D'Brickashaw Ferguson was never diagnosed with one in his 10-year career.Maddie Meyer/Getty Images

While he spoke candidly about concussions in December, D’Brickashaw Ferguson was never diagnosed with one in his 10-year career.

D’Brickashaw Ferguson is 32 years old and played 10 years in the NFL and the only snap he missed in his career came on a trick play.

So, he is not part of the epidemic of young players in the last two years who are getting out of the NFL early rather than risk brain injury, even though it’s before they max out on their earnings potential. Ferguson made $ 67 million with the Jets and never was diagnosed with a concussion and never once was on the injury report.

Why did Ferguson quit and why did he wait until April? He was coming off a subpar year, did not receive a strong endorsement from Todd Bowles and the Jets recently approached him looking to slash his $ 10.375 million salary and the $ 14.1 million in cap space he was devouring. He also didn’t live up to his own standards and with the Jets offseason program starting April 18, he clearly felt he didn’t have it in him to play another year.

But: Was Ferguson willing to fight through the season for $ 10 million but not $ 5 million? That could be a realistic way of looking at it.

But then remember the three letters that are scaring the hell out of NFL players: CTE. The degenerative brain disease linked to concussions. The more information that comes out, the scarier it gets. Ferguson is retiring healthy. Still, every player must take note that Junior Seau was never reported to have a concussion in his 20-year NFL career and he committed suicide in 2012, three years after his final season. He was then diagnosed with CTE. Ferguson played a brutally violent sport and ending the collisions now certainly increase his chances for a healthier life after football.

Ferguson said some compelling things after the movie “Concussion” was released late last season. He was upset how the NFL downplayed the impact of concussions when he first came into the league in 2006. “After learning all of this, I feel a bit betrayed by the people or committees put in place by the league who did not have my best interests at heart,” he wrote in a piece for Sports Illustrated.

He also wrote, “When I initially heard about 49ers linebacker Chris Borland, who decided to retire after one professional season for the risk of brain injury, I thought perhaps he was acting very abruptly, but now I cannot fault him. If we know the risks, then why do we still play?”

Bills linebacker A.J. Tarpley retired last week at the age of 23. He suffered the third and fourth concussions of his football career in 2015 in his rookie season in the NFL. “I am walking away from the game I love to preserve my future health,” he said. “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.”

The final play of his career was an interception of Ryan Fitzpatrick in the last game of the season that knocked the Jets out of the playoffs.

Chris Borland opens eyes by retiring after just one NFL season due to concerns about head injuries.Michael Zagaris/Getty Images

Chris Borland opens eyes by retiring after just one NFL season due to concerns about head injuries.

Ferguson is one of the lucky ones. He made an incredible amount of money and leaves the game healthy.

Borland, who retired after the 2014 season, has become a trendsetter: Young players are choosing their long-term health over life-changing money.

“Well, the old adage is that you play till the wheels fall off,” Borland told the Detroit Free Press. “You play till you can’t anymore. You have to be carried off the field. I think that’ll change.”

Borland said he didn’t watch one game last year other than if he was at a friend’s house. He said he doesn’t anticipate letting his kids play football. “It could be the greatest game in the world, but simultaneously maybe the worst,” he said at a recent conference. “And the crux of the issue for me, I think, is that what makes it so great is also what makes it detrimental and scary and everything — the violence. So I don’t regret my decision. Miss the game, but that time was going to come at a certain point anyway, so moved on with my life.”

Ferguson got his 10 years in. It may not be long before that exceeds what anybody else is able to do.

QUICK DRAFT HITS

The Titans are trying to stir up business for the No. 1 pick in the April 28 draft. But it makes sense for them to stay put and take Mississippi left tackle Laremy Tunsil to protect quarterback Marcus Mariota, who was beat up his rookie year. They could then move Taylor Lewan, their No. 1 pick in 2014, to right tackle… The Eagles moved up from the 13th spot to the eighth spot when they traded Byron Maxwell and Kiko Alonso to the Dolphins, at least putting them in position to make an attractive offer to the Titans. Philly wants North Dakota State QB Carson Wentz even though it just signed Sam Bradford to a two-year $ 35 million deal with $ 22 million guaranteed. The Eagles are going to have to jump over the Browns at No. 2 to get Wentz, who has distanced himself from Cal’s Jared Goff as the top QB despite the low level of college competition. But Joe Flacco has done pretty well coming from an FCS school at Delaware. Former Cowboys VP Gil Brandt is impressed by Wentz’s athletic ability, arm and intelligence but says, “you’re always concerned” with players from smaller schools. Goff played well for a mediocre team at Cal. Paxton Lynch, the 6-7 QB from Memphis, is an intriguing prospect. “If you looked at him against Ole Miss, you’re going to pick him in the first round,” Brandt said. “If you look at him against Auburn, you wouldn’t bring him to camp.” Wentz and Goff are a step down from Jameis Winston and Mariota, who went 1-2 last year. “They can get you into the playoffs. I don’t know if you can win a Super Bowl with them,” Brandt said. “I thought the two guys last year were guys who can get you to a Super Bowl.”

SALARY KAEP

Unhappy with the 49ers, Colin Kaepernick is being asked to pay his own way out of San Francisco.Christian Petersen/Getty Images

Unhappy with the 49ers, Colin Kaepernick is being asked to pay his own way out of San Francisco.

Colin Kaepernick’s $ 11.9 million contract became guaranteed April 1. The Broncos want to sign him to a new two-year $ 14 million deal, which would require Kaepernick to give up about $ 5 million. As miserable as he apparently is in San Francisco, why should he pay his way out? Remember, the baseball players union put the kibosh on the Texas Rangers attempt to trade A-Rod to the Red Sox in 2004 when Boston wanted him to take a pay cut even though Rodriguez had agreed to the deal. If the baseball players union is the big bad gorilla, the NFLPA is nothing more than an annoying mosquito to the folks at 345 Park Avenue. But as long as Kaepernick doesn’t give back any guaranteed money, the union does not have to worry about a bad precedent being set… Greg Hardy clearly did the ESPN interview to attempt to clean up his image with no team stepping up to sign him. It didn’t work. In fact, it may have forced teams to run even further away.

BAD RETURNS

The intention of the new rule putting the ball at the 25-yard line on a touchback is to further reduce the motivation for kickoff returns, which is considered one of the most dangerous plays in the game. Moving the kickoff from the 30 to the 35 in 2011 severely cut down on returns. But here’s the unintended consequence of the new touchback rule: Rather than conceding the offense a starting position at the 25, kickers will surely be instructed to practice popping the ball up high and short of the goal line, giving the coverage teams a chance to get down the field with a good opportunity to bring the runner down inside the 25. The extra returns could lead to more injuries, which is exactly what the NFL wants to avoid.

FANSUIT

Seven Patriots fans have sued the NFL, Roger Goodell and Robert Kraft to force the league to return New England’s first-round pick, which Goodell took away as part of the Deflategate penalties. Of course, the legal action has no chance, but imagine if fans could be awarded damages from lawsuits when they feel wronged by their team. Jets Nation could get untold riches from the cruel and unusual punishment of their team not making the Super Bowl for the last 47 years… Mark Sanchez has put together Broncos West just like he did Jets West and Eagles West for some off-season throwing with teammates in California. If nothing else, Sanchez is an excellent camp counselor. He recruited Demaryius Thomas and Emmanuel Sanders among others to work out with him in Mission Viejo. He doesn’t seem concerned that Kaepernick could be competing with him this summer to take over as the starting QB for the defending Super Bowl champs. “Listen, I don’t care who is there, what is going on right now. They are going to give me a fair shake, that’s all I can ask for, a fair shot. I am good. Let’s go. I will bet on myself and compete my butt off,” he told the Denver Post. “I will be friendly and professional with whoever is there. But I want this bad. Really bad. I want what they experienced last year.”

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