Washington linebacker Su’a Cravens hasn’t been around the NFL for long, but perhaps he’s had enough already.
Cravens reportedly had to be talked out of retirement by team officials while his teammates took the field for morning practice on Sept. 3. ESPN reported that Cravens informed a handful of teammates the prior day that he intended to notify the team of his retirement. Washington drafted Cravens in the second round of the 2016 NFL draft.
This June 15, 2016 photo shows Washington Redskins’ safety Su’a Cravens walking from the field during the NFL football teams minicamp at the Redskins Park in Ashburn, Va. Cravens had to be talked out of retiring on Sunday, Sept. 3, 2017 during a meeting with team president Bruce Allen, and his future with the team is in doubt. (AP Photo/Manuel Balce Ceneta)
The 22-year-old hybrid linebacker/safety’s reasons for wanting to bow out of a four-year, $4.4 million contract are unclear, but whatever his reasons, he should follow through on them. Washington placed Cravens on the team’s exempt list, which will give him a few weeks to resolve his personal matters. But unless there’s something malicious clouding his judgment, then he should walk away if he has concerns about his health or lacks a passion for the game.
Cravens dealt with a knee injury, concussion and a biceps injury last season and that could be a focal point of his sudden decision. If he does retire, then he’ll join a growing list of pro football players that have departed the league early, putting their health before their wallets.
After a standout prep career and successful stint at USC, Cravens added speed and versatility to Washington’s front seven last season and was expected to be an even bigger part of the defensive unit this year. During the offseason Washington moved Cravens to the safety position at his request, but now he may never play another down with the team. The wear and tear of the linebacker position on the smaller Cravens may have influenced his desire to move to safety. But perhaps the injuries wrought more psychological damage than physical.
Football has always been a dangerous sport, but recent research has provided insight into how life-threatening the game can be. Players have taken notice, and several have retired on their own instead of playing out years-long careers. The money and lifestyle of a professional football player is clearly enticing, but credit Cravens for considering his life over a lavish living. Fans might be let down and his teammates might despise him, but it’s clear what Cravens wants to do. Hopefully, he’s bold enough to buck the trend of past footballers who have traded their health and well-being for big houses and fast cars.