Snyder: Players’ Personal Well-being, Not Football, Comes First

“I think he has got four weeks really to try to get his life in order, on and off the field, and figure out where his priorities are and what he wants to do.” – Skins coach Jay Gruden on safety Su’a Cravens.

It’s down to three weeks now. That’s how much time remains before Cravens must decide whether he has another season of football in him.

Does he really want to put his body through all that pain and suffering? Does he honestly want to subject his brain to more of those jarring collisions with his skull? Is he truly at peace with the inherent risk of debilitating conditions later in life?

We don’t know for certain what led to Cravens’ attempted retirement. Maybe it’s something physical. But it also could be something mental or emotional, just as real. Whatever the case, the Skins didn’t accept his resignation. Whether the team was sensitive or self-centered is debatable, though I lean toward my colleague Thom Loverro in concluding it was the latter.

It happens. Companies often try to talk valued employees out of quitting. But few of those jobs are as dangerous to life and limb as football. It’s one thing to convince a top executive or salesperson to stick with the team. It’s another to persuade a 22-year-old to continue crashing his body into other grown men at high rates of speed.

Many fans are conflicted because so many men played, and continue to play, despite the damage. Ronnie Lott instructed trainers to cut off part of a finger so he could return to the action. Jack Youngblood kept going on a broken leg. Players subject themselves to more pills and shots than local clinics administer in one year.

But they do it voluntarily for six-, seven- and eight-figure payouts. And if a player develops second thoughts and decides to retire early, many fans don’t understand. They question the player’s manhood and his commitment to the team. They don’t want to hear about his fears or concerns; they just want him to suit up and help their team on the field.

Cravens’ absence doesn’t increase the Skins’ chances of winning games, but it might help him win the game of life. If so, the team, players and fans should be happy for him.

That’s the only game that counts.

— Follow Deron on Twitter @DeronSnyder and email him at deron1067thefan@gmail.com.

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