As far as I’m concerned, giving Brent the benefit of calling it a retirement is an insult to any athlete who has ever played a sport or worked a day in their lives.
Forget the technical definition of the term — retirement isn’t just hanging up the cleats. Retirement is symbolic. It’s what happens when you’ve paid your dues and built a legacy and your career ends because you’re too old, too tired or too broken down to keep taking the field. Retirement is what Brian Urlacher did this offseason. Retirement is for guys like Ray Lewis or Jeff Saturday.
These men are titans who earned the right to end things their way. Brent doesn’t deserve to be lumped in with them just because his circumstances forced the issue. Retirement is a reward for competitors who want to go home and relax after a career well-played, not an out for guys whose “retirement” may play out in a cell.
Unlike the Pro Bowlers mentioned above, the only reason anyone even knows Brent’s name is because he was involved in the death of a teammate and keeps finding ways to end up back in jail as he awaits his September trial on charges of the intoxication manslaughter of Jerry Brown.
To that end, Brent has failed two drug tests since being released on a $100,000 bond, and had a hearing scheduled Friday morning in which a Dallas County judge was to rule on whether Brent’s bond should be revoked after his latest positive test for marijuana.
From a productivity standpoint, Brent is more famous for standing on the sideline than he is for anything he ever did on the field. No one will ever remember him for his 31 career tackles or his 1-1/2 career sacks, or for the one fumble he forced and the one pass he deflected.
So forgive me if I have a hard time stomaching the idea that what he did Thursday was “retire.” Josh Brent didn’t retire, he quit — and he did it because he had to. And for those who harbor any sort of respect for the players who have earned the opportunity to make that decision themselves, there’s a big difference.