It has probably been at least a couple of years now that Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger has given some level of serious consideration to the future of his playing career. It has only been during this past season that it has been talked about, and during which he himself said that he weighed retiring.
It’s not as though the reasons for the contemplation are unknown. But as he brought up during his radio spot this past week after the violent game against the Bengals, the potential risk for injuries play a tremendous factor in the decision.
After all, you can make a couple hundred million dollars during your playing career, but will it have been worth it if you can’t even walk by the end of it, or perhaps even worse? As he saw his friend and teammate Ryan Shazier laying on the field on Monday night, it only drove the point home further for, frankly, every player in the league.
“People get all over me for saying you have to contemplate every year on if you want to keep going”, he said, as transcribed by Jerry DiPaola, but “plays like this make you really evaluate things”, he said. “That’s why I say it’s a smart thing to do. It’s a violent game. And this game always seems to be that way. It’s crazy this sport we play”.
It is crazy, but also crazily lucrative at the top end of the spectrum. Roethlisberger has certainly earned his share of the profits over the course of his 14-year career, and will continue to do so to the tune of tens of millions annually, presumably as long as he continues to play, while also remaining effective.
On his own offspring following in his footsteps, Roethlisberger conceded, “I hope he plays golf”, and many more players are continuing to prefer that their children not play the game. “If he wants to play football, that’s fine, too”, he added. “But it’s a tough sport. It’s not for everyone”.
One of the reasons, he said, that he had to gather himself and the rest of his team following Shazier’s injury was simply because if you’re distracted, you are putting yourself at risk of getting injured yourself. And a few others players did get seriously injured in the game.
That includes Vontaze Burfict, the Bengals linebacker who has hurt Roethlisberger on a number of occasions. “I said a prayer for him there”, he said. “Regardless of what’s happened in the past, regardless of what you think of him as a person or player, anytime someone goes down and is injured you have to feel compassion and feel compelled to pray for that person that he’ll be okay”.
That is why I will never fault anybody for walking away from the game while they still can. I love the game of football about as much as I love anything else, but it’s literally a hazard to your health, and we are still learning just how much so it is.