By announcing his retirement, former Pittsburgh Steelers strong safety Troy Polamalu made some right decisions.
First of all, Polamalu made his decision to call it quits before suffering more damage to his health. Polamalu, who turns 34 later this month, has had a history of concussions since his days at USC. He’s missed at least a couple of games due to head injuries in his 12-year NFL career, and there could be more that were not officially recorded.
The more concussions you have, and the less time there is between them, the more damage your brain sustains. Polamalu often dives head-first to stop the ball carrier, and this playstyle produces more risks to his head. His decision should be welcomed by his wife and two children.
Secondly, his decision has saved his reputation as one of the best safeties in NFL history. Although Polamalu is not the same as he was at his peak, he could still play some more games as one of the better safeties in football.
But fans always remember the Polamalu who moved around the field to disguise the defense, hit receivers with amazing closing speed, blitzed from unexpected angles and leaped for interceptions.
The 178-cm, 94-kg Polamalu was never physically gifted. But the No. 16 overall pick in the 2003 draft made the most of his speed, quickness and instinct to become the core of the Steel Curtain defense.
Eventually, however, the calf and Achilles’ tendon injuries and perhaps his age took away his mobility in recent years. Over the last few seasons, Polamalu was vulnerable to injuries, and many times his gambling on plays hurt the Steelers defense by allowing a number of big plays.
If he had chosen to continue his career for one or two more years, he would have run the risk of disappointing fans and having a negative end to his legendary career, which included eight Pro Bowl selections, four All-Pros, the 2010 Defensive Player of the Year and the two Super Bowl rings.
Finishing his career as a Steeler was another good decision. It is very rare in the NFL for a player to spend his whole playing career with one team, even for the player regarded as the “face” of the team.
It’s tough for fans to boo a player who they have rooted for years, especially a fan-favorite playmaker like Polamalu.
There was a rumor that Polamalu would play for the Titans, where Dick LeBeau, a long-time Steelers defensive coordinator who parted ways with Pittsburgh after last season, joined as assistant head coach for defense. The Cardinals would have been another candidate because head coach Bruce Arians is another former Steelers assistant and knows Polamalu well.
But Polamalu said playing for another team was never his choice. “I did not seriously consider playing elsewhere,” Polamalu was quoted as saying on NFL.com. That is exactly what the Steelers fans wanted to hear.
Rewriting the rule book: The NFL rule book needs renewing this offseason, not because some of the rules will be changed but because the officials are not all men any longer. Sarah Thomas was hired by the NFL last week as the first female official and she’ll be assigned as a line judge. But the NFL official rule book uses only “he” to explain the role of seven game officials.
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