By KYLE ITO
Chris Borland, middle linebacker for the San Francisco 49ers, announced his retirement from the NFL on March 16, 2015. The talented player’s move stunned both the league and fans of the sport because he retired after only his rookie season. This is an extremely unusual move, especially among players with a bright future in the league.
Borland was drafted in the 2014 NFL Draft in the 3rd round, 77th overall to the 49ers. He competed with linebacker Michael Wilhoite for the other starting role at middle linebacker for injured all-pro NaVorro Bowman. He finally got his first career start in week 7 following the injury to starting middle linebacker Patrick Willis the week before. Borland shone in his NFL debut against the Denver Broncos, recording eight tackles, one tackle for a loss and his first career sack on future Hall of Fame quarterback Peyton Manning. Unfortunately, on December 20, 2014, Borland ended up on the IR list with an ankle injury, ending his rookie season. Although he only played 8 games, he recorded 108 tackles, 1 sack, and 2 interceptions.
In football, middle linebackers are responsible for making a majority of the tackles and tend to see most of the action in the middle of the field. Every tackle they make can affect their health and change their careers forever; it’s a risk they take when playing the game they love. They are often the most physical players on the field and are known to be hard-nosed and tough.
Borland chose to announce his retirement in March due to worries about head trauma in the future. He is aware that the position he plays requires physical play and jeopardizes his health. Following his first year in the league, he decided to walk away from the game because he chooses good health over money and playing time in the NFL. Regarding his retirement, Borland said to ESPN, “I just honestly want to do what’s best for my health. From what I’ve researched and what I’ve experienced, I don’t think it’s worth the risk.” Many people are puzzled by his actions, but it was a move that took a lot of guts and is a respectable one as well.
I don’t think his actions will affect people’s approach on safety issues in the NFL, because he had his own reasons to retire, and you have the freedom to make decisions on what’s best for yourself. Borland simply weighed his options and felt that the risk outweighed the reward. This move comes during a bad offseason so far for the 49ers. With many players signing with other teams, including the retirement of Patrick Willis and Chris Borland, the 49ers are left with a weak middle linebacker core. It’s unfortunate that this has happened, since the 49ers had a strong group of players at middle linebacker, but in just a matter of days it has become a serious position of need.
Just a week after his retirement announcement, Borland told the NFL that he intends on repaying the 49ers back three-fourths of his signing bonus. Borland’s signing bonus with the 49ers was $617,436, so he would be repaying $463,077 in order to give the team more salary cap space. A lot of people are talking about this move, because some feel that he should keep the money he has received during his one year career in the league. Borland’s reasoning is that he’s only going to keep the money he has earned.
I believe that he has earned his money from the team and he should keep all of his signing bonus because it’s his own and he shouldn’t feel obligated to give the team a part of his earnings to help them. Borland should be acknowledged for his actions because he is smart for thinking ahead and being concerned for his future.