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Professional Athletes And Retirement Issues

Over the weekend, news came out that former Baltimore Ravens and Cleveland Browns running back Jamal Lewis has filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy. Lewis appears to have more assets than debts, but is using the filing to re-organize his finances and get his creditors paid off.

Lewis' situation is not a pretty one, but it is arguably much better than much of what we see from retired NFL players, and really many professional athletes in general. The medical issues remain a concern, but arguably just as big a deal for some professional athletes is figuring out how to deal with life after the cheering stops.

Athletes spend their childhood, high school and college years building towards this professional career of playing sports. They eventually make it to the big time and are adored by millions. Eventually though, retirement comes. At a time when most Americans are just entering the prime of their career, professional athletes are considered washed up and finished.

This past week, I had a chance to attend the NFLPA press conference on Thursday. The press conference began with a discussion of the collusion lawsuit, but eventually moved on to a variety of other topics. I had a chance to ask about the issue of players' post-career issues. Several players have suggested some kind of mandatory counseling as players approach the end of their career.

I had a chance to fire off a question to DeMaurice Smith, and you can check it out in video after the jump. I get my question in at the 23:40 mark. De Smith spoke about a re-organization of the NFLPA's offices to bring the pertinent parties within the PA together. What I found most pertinent was his suggestion of many players needing to better comprehend the fleeting nature of their NFL career.

That strikes me as the biggest issue. The NFL and NFLPA can offer all sorts of services, but if a player doesn't accept the inevitability of life after football, it becomes a significant issue. I don't know if players will ever fully grasp this. Until that happens, it seems like we'll continue to hear of millionaire athletes going bankrupt a few years after their careers have ended. Is there a tenable solution?

NFLPA press conference