On the heels of his unexpected retirement from the NFL at age 31, offensive lineman Jacob Bell said his decision was based at least partly on concerns about the toll that more football would take on his body.
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Bell, who spent the past four years with the St. Louis Rams, told the Post-Dispatch he is in good health but decided he wanted to "get out before the game makes me get out."
He said last week’s suicide of former star linebacker Junior Seau was the "cherry on top," cementing his decision to walk away from the game just five weeks after signing with the Bengals.
"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?" he said.
Though Seau’s death has been ruled a suicide, his family has not yet decided whether to donate his brain to researchers who are looking into the long-term neurological effects of multiple concussions on former NFL players.
It remains unclear whether Seau was struggling with issues related to past concussions.
"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," said Bell, who started 100 games in his eight seasons.
Bell said he doesn’t even know how many concussions he may have sustained on the field, arguing doctors have not yet pinned down exactly what defines a concussion.
"If you’re telling me ‘I’m seeing stars’ is some sort of concussion, then you’re getting a couple a week," he estimated. "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."
Earlier in his career, Bell was making $6 million a year with St. Louis but was slated to make $825,000 next season with the Bengals. He was also expected to be a backup after the team drafted guard Kevin Zeitler in the first round.