Why Did Durable D’Brickashaw Ferguson Retire After Not Missing a Game for a Decade?

D'Brickashaw Ferguson
The Associated Press
Florham Park, NJ

FLORHAM PARK, NJ —New York Jets left tackle D’Brickashaw Ferguson retired Friday at the age of 32.

Why did he bolt in his prime?

He’s in very good condition. In fact, he started 167 consecutive games, never missing a game in 10 seasons, including the playoffs. That is a remarkable record in a sport as violent as football.

“I count it as a blessing, and I don’t take it for granted,” Ferguson said last season. “I haven’t had any major bang-ups.”

Despite his remarkable durability during his NFL career, he’s not naïve about the damage the sport can do to one’s body.

“When it comes to football, injuries occur so frequently that they are often considered simply a part of the game,” Ferguson wrote in a guest column for Sports Illustrated last December. “However, should all injuries receive that same level of acquiescence? What about those injuries you never fully recover from? What about those injuries that severely impair the quality of your life even after the game is long over?”

So maybe he wants to walk away in one piece, and take advantage of his health after a decade in the league. Perhaps, but this decision was probably financially driven as well.

Ferguson was scheduled to make $10.4 million this year. The Jets approached him about taking a pay cut early this week. A few days later, he retired. You do the math.

While Ferguson’s camp says it’s not about the money, there has to be a financial element to this. As the saying from the Watergate scandal goes, “follow the money.”

If the Jets were willing to keep Ferguson at $10.4 million, do you think he would have walked away from that money? Probably not. He would have likely sucked it up for one more season, and perhaps retired next off-season.

But since the Jets asked him to take a significant pay cut, the erudite UVA graduate probably figured it’s not worth it physically, and it was time to “move on with his life’s work” as Chuck Noll was fond of saying.

So, it’s kind of a risk-reward scenario. Not saying money drives Ferguson, but at his old salary, he probably would have made it work for another year for his family’s sake. But at a greatly reduced deal, it was time for him to move on to his next life’s challenge.

Ferguson joins a long list of NFL players who have walked away from the sport in the last couple of years at relatively young ages. Last year, linebackers Chris Borland (24), Jason Worilds (27), and Patrick Willis (30) all left the NFL. Early this week, linebacker A.J. Tarpley (23) retired. In February, superstar receiver Calvin Johnson walked away at 30.

The progressive sports media is going to make these retirements a referendum against football, a sport they don’t seem to like very much, perhaps because America loves it. Is football a somewhat dangerous job? Yes, but there are a lot of precarious occupations.

You know what? Thousands of players would love to take the jobs of these retired athletes. And scores of left tackles on the street, or in the draft, would love to grab Ferguson’s job.