Understanding why NFL players are retiring so early

Patrick Willis retires after eight seasons in the NFL.

I remember when Barry Sanders retired from the NFL. He had been in the league since 1989 and 10 years later, was still a very effective running back. I was selfish when he announced it because he was so close to becoming the all-time leading rusher. But instead, he walked away because he just didn’t have the same passion anymore. I didn’t want to hear it. I wanted him to play longer. I wanted him to have the record. I hated that he left the game like that.

It took me a long while until I started covering the 49ers as a beat writer in 2009 did I started to understand these kinds of decisions fully.

Every day, I saw what these players go through with their bodies. I see the strain it took on some of them and their families. I saw the difficulties they had to maintain as a famous person. Even though the money was great, the stress and the burdens continued to rise daily. There’s the glory of being a famous NFL player, but there is a lot of other baggage that comes along with.

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Patrick Willis leaves the game happy and that makes me happy

Patrick Willis, in his retirement press conference, said that he leaves the game happy without any regrets. He said he gave the game everything he had but looking towards his future, he knew health was very important to him. Having issues with his feet, Willis cited that he was going to leave the game for that primary reason. Willis said that he won’t have an itching to come back later on because he leaves the game with closure.

I remember the first time I met him. What a joy it was for me and he was so respectful in answering all my questions. A few months later, he signed a 49ers mini helmet for me during training camp. It still remains as one of my most prized memorabilia possessions.

Willis was a very respectful man and a man with a huge heart in his time with the 49ers. He remained honest every day and I am happy that he’s happy. He gets to enjoy life.

Thank you, Patrick.

Patrick Willis, Frank Gore and Justin Smith are all leaving the 49ers?

Patrick WIllis and Frank Gore were two very important players for the 49ers in the past decade. Now both are no longer going to be with the team.

I remember when I first met Patrick Willis. It was the summer of 2009 and I had just begun my first season covering the 49ers for Examiner.com several months earlier. It was a screening for “The Taking of Pelham 123” and Willis was hosting the screening with Alex Smith. I was invited to attend the screening and had a chance to interview both players. Willis was entering his third season with the 49ers and had already been selected to two Pro Bowls — he would make the Pro Bowl for seven consecutive years to start his career.

At the time, the 49ers were still struggling to become a winning team but Willis was still excited about the possibility of the team being better and the defense being one of the best in the league. Willis was optimistic and had always been that way his entire career. In the three seasons I got up close with the team, Willis was always great to be around.

He wasn’t the best in terms of giving very elaborate interviews, but as a team leader, he knew that his words carried a lot of weight. Knowing that, he remained professional in every way shape or form with the 49ers. And aside from that, one of the best things about Willis was that he was a genuinely good person. There is no other example you need to read than this story of Willis spending time with a young cancer patient. I remember that day very well and it is one of my favorite highlights covering the team.

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Alex Smith, Patrick Willis, Jon Beason and that Twitter thing they’re using

If you’ve been living under a rock for the past few days, read up on this story first.

When I signed up for Twitter back in 2009 to help my coverage of the 49ers, I didn’t know exactly what I would be seeing on a daily basis. I frankly think that unless you’re in a business, media or someone that requires constant sending and receiving of information, Twitter is actually pretty pointless.

I just got Twitter in 2009 just to help myself keep track of other dealings and as more and more athletes decide to sign up on Twitter, the more and more I feel that they either use it right or totally wrong.

As in this case, I think it’s a case of right and wrong for Beason and Willis.

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