Indianapolis Colts quarterback Andrew Luck is no longer in the NFL. The 29-year-old has opted to walk away and leave a massive paycheck in the rearview mirror. He gave up the game that he was born to play and will instead be enjoying an early retirement with his wife. Some may view the decision as confusing while others will simply call him "soft" for wanting to avoid rehab and the rigors of another season. But what is the real reason why Luck walked away from the NFL?
As he stated during his postgame press conference on Saturday night, this was far from an easy decision for the former first overall pick in the 2012 NFL Draft. In fact, the emotional weight of retirement was clear as Luck broke down in tears during this extended question and answer segment. If he was this attached to the Colts and the NFL in general, why would he leave at such a young age? The short answer is that his body was worn out and his mind was exhausted.
Since the 2015 season, Luck has been in a constant rotation of getting injured, going through rehab, and getting injured again. It was a never-ending cycle, and it wore on him both physically and emotionally. In the past four years, Luck has missed an entire injury due to shoulder surgery, dealt with a nagging lower leg issue, and played through both a torn abdominal muscle and a lacerated kidney, the latter of which caused him to urinate blood.
Critics may call him soft for wanting to avoid yet another cycle of injury and rehab, but it's impossible to deny the toughness that he displayed every single season. Unfortunately, the string of injuries did wear on Luck's psyche.
"I've been stuck in this process," Luck said. "I haven't been able to live the life I want to live. It's taken the joy out of this game. The only way forward for me is to remove myself from football.
"This is not an easy decision. It's the hardest decision of my life. But it is the right decision for me.''
Don't misunderstand, there was certainly an avenue in which Luck could have simply missed the 2019 season with the lower leg injury and spent the year on Injured Reserve, but what would that have accomplished? Yes, he would have entered the 2020 season healthy and ready to play, but would his heart be in it? Being physically able to participate in football is only part of the process. You also have to possess undying love for the game, to the point that you would be willing to put your body through hell in order to take the field.
At this point in his career, Luck didn't know if he had that love for football, at least not anymore. He would much rather spend time with his wife and enjoy that health that he has while they start a family instead of putting his body on the line week after week in pursuit of a trophy that only one in 32 teams can win each season. His decision wasn't a popular one with fans of the Colts, but it's hard to knock Luck for making a decision to improve his mental health and daily life.