Retire at 31?

This is the time of year when NFL free agents start to think about life after football. Recent salary cap changes have allowed teams to keep veterans with a ‘cap charge’ of less than the actual veteran minimum to reduce the number of rookies taking vets’ jobs. At the same time, NFL careers are short at best.

I’m thinking about guys like Ken Amato, the long-snapper for the Titans. Amato’s backup last year, Fred Miller, is gone, which would seem like reason to celebrate. Amato’s new backup is Robert Reynolds, a backup linebacker. If Reynolds learns the job well enough, Amato could be gone. There’s not much of a market for a long-snapper who doesn’t do much else.

I bring up this example because this morning I found out that my football career might be over. I know, even if there were an Arena League 6 I wouldn’t crack a roster. I’m talking about our weekly flag-football game. We started the game in 2000, back when I was the young, fast one. While the game is by rule a non-contact sport, there are collisions, and injuries. I’ve suffered minor injuries like a high ankle sprain (that sucker would not go away) to inflamed tissue in my foot. The worst was an accidental elbow to the nose. Nothing was broken but it felt like this.

With these listed downfalls of the game, why would I miss it? It’s a chance for all of us, regardless of our athletic pasts, to feel vital and strong. We get to exorcise our competitive demons. Nothing beats scoring the game-winning touchdown. For a small investment of some flags, belts, orange cones, a couple of footballs, and some cleats, we were in the black.

No one has told me that I need to hang ‘em up, but I know that the day might come very soon. I injured my back about a month ago and as of today it’s still raw and sore. My back, and particularly my spine, are the weak points in my body.

In August of 2001 I was admitted to the emergency room. I was under attack by a massive Staph infection, and Staph was rolling like the old Nebraska wishbone. A pocket of the infection pooled in an abscess inside my spinal column. An undeveloped childhood disease created more space between vertebrae than in most people, and that’s where the Staph built its Death Star inside my body. Surgery cleaned away the abscess, and about a month later the antibiotics had mopped up the rest of the enemy soldiers.

The laminectomy helped to save my life, but at the same time it weakened my spine. Because of that the little injuries like my current back pain are more likely to happen. Activities that put a lot of strain on my back might have to be curtailed. I know, how much pressure can I put on my back with my 12-inch vertical leap? Enough, I suppose.

I know it’s crazy to compare my possible retirement with that of an NFL veteran. I’ve been in the game since 2000, though, and a lot of guys who are soon to be out of the league have not. Other than that, yes, it is a crazy comparison.

I watched my TiVo’d U.S./Costa Rica soccer match in about 80 minutes. It was a home game, but a win is a win for the American squad. I think every Costa Rican within 100 miles of Salt Lake City was at the game. If it weren’t for a few brilliant Kasey Keller saves, the result would have been far different from the 3-0 laugher that it seemed to be. The U.S. plays Panama on Wednesday. Road qualifiers are tough. One more win and the United States side is all but assured a spot in the 2006 World Cup.

2 Responses to Retire at 31?

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  2. carbuncle December 1, 2005 at 7:14 pm #

    Hi Zach Law, Out surfing for information on treatment for boils & happened upon your site. While Retire at 31? wasn’t exactly spot on, it did strike a note with me. Thank you for the really good read.

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