The San Francisco 49ers offseason has been a wild one with significant roster turnover. Patrick Willis was the first big confirmed player retirement, but that was quickly followed by Chris Borland stunning most of us. Borland left the game because of concerns about head injuries and what they might mean for his quality of life as he gets older.
Boston Globe NFL writer Ben Volin put together a piece on the 49ers numerous departures, and it included a brief update on what Borland has been up to since his retirement earlier this year.
Borland didn't necessarily intend to be a flag bearer for the concussion movement when he retired, but over the last three months he has been flying all over the country meeting with and giving presentations to brain doctors, researchers, and universities to give an insider's view on head injuries and the NFL. His travels have brought him to Boston, including a presentation at Harvard.
Volin spoke with Borland's father, who said there appears to be no regret for Borland. His father pointed to the value he brings as a former player, and what it could mean for the researchers trying to get a better handle on a complicated issue.
"I think that he's finding that there's still a disconnect between the activity — the practice and the games, how much contact there is — and the people that are doing the science," Jeff Borland said. "They haven't necessarily stood on the sidelines to really get a feel for what's going on out there. He's got a practical experience that's probably beyond most master's degrees."
Volin's article suggests it is unlikely the 49ers exodus is likely to lead to a major trend of players leaving football early. His article comes a few days after Andrew Brandt discussed the issue at The MMQB. He talked about the unexpected developments this offseason that have seen Chris Borland, Anthony Davis, Jake Locker and Jason Worilds all retiring early.
They have given a variety reasons for their early retirements, so we can't exactly say the concussion issue is driving this. Borland and Davis cited head trauma concerns, while Locker said he did not have the burning desire, and Worilds wants to do more with his church. It is still too early to draw significant conclusions, but as Brandt put it in his article, early retirements could pose an unexpected threat to the NFL's reign in America. It is something to watch moving forward. It is entirely possible this is just a blip on the radar, but it will be something to track next offseason and beyond.