2017-07-27 17:32:03
For Ravens’ John Urschel, Playing in the N.F.L. No Longer Adds Up

17:32, July 27 178 0

One of the N.F.L.’s smartest players did the math and decided to retire after just three years in the league.

The player, John Urschel, an offensive lineman for the Baltimore Ravens who received much publicity for his off-season pursuit of a doctorate in math at M.I.T., told the team on Thursday that he was hanging up his cleats at 26.

Urschel’s agent, Jim Ivler, said Urschel was overwhelmed with interview requests but would not be speaking to the news media. On Twitter, Urschel wrote that “there is no big story here” and that the decision to retire was not an easy one to make, but “it was the right one for me.”

He added that he planned to go back to school full-time in the fall, “to take courses that are only offered in the fall semester” and spend time with his fiancée, who is expecting their first child in December.

Urschel’s decision came two days after the release of a study by researchers in Boston in which all but one of 111 brains of N.F.L. players they studied showed signs of chronic traumatic encephalopathy, a degenerative brain disease linked to repeated head hits.

The Baltimore Sun and ESPN, citing anonymous sources with the Ravens, said his retirement was related to the study.

Urschel, who had spoken about balancing concerns about the safety of the game and his love for it, left Thursday before the team’s first full practice of the coming season.

“We respect John and respect his decision,” Coach, John Harbaugh said in a statement. “We appreciate his efforts over the past three years and wish him all the best in his future endeavors.”

Urschel became the latest high-profile N.F.L. player to retire after just a few years in the league. A.J. Tarpley, a linebacker on the Buffalo Bills who played at Stanford, retired last year after several concussions. The year before, San Francisco 49ers linebacker Chris Borland left the N.F.L. after one season, citing his fear of long-term cognitive damage.

Last week, the Carolina Panthers cut Michael Oher, the lineman made famous in the movie“The Blind Side,” which told the story of his life growing up with foster parents. Oher, who has been in the N.F.L. concussion protocol since September, was released after failing a physical.

“The Brain is a scary thing,” Oher said on Twitter after his release. “You have to be careful with it.”

Oher had left the Ravens the year before Urschel arrived.

Urschel played football at Penn State, where he studied mathematics and graduated in three years with a 4.0 grade point average. He was drafted in the fifth round in 2014 and played in 40 games the past three seasons. He sustained a concussion in 2015 in a head-to-head collision.

Urschel spent the past two off-seasons at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, studying advanced mathematics, including spectral graph theory, matrix algebra and computational finance.

“Right now, I spend most of my time thinking about discrete Schrödinger operators, high-dimensional data compression, algebraic multigrid and Voronoi diagrams,” he said on his M.I.T. web page.

He has also published papers in mathematics journals.

His penchant for numbers led NFL Network to call him the league’s smartest man.

His skills off the field led many to question his decision to put his body and mind at risk playing one of the most dangerous positions in football. In 2015, he wrote an essay in The Players’ Tribune titled, “Why I Still Play Football,” after Borland’s sudden retirement.

In the article, Urschel wrote, “objectively, I shouldn’t” play football.

“I have a bright career ahead of me in mathematics. Beyond that, I have the means to make a good living and provide for my family, without playing football.”

The collision in 2015 knocked him out. Urschel told HBO’s “Real Sports With Bryant Gumbel” that his ability to do high-level math was temporarily affected. But in the episode, which ran in January, he repeated that he wanted to continue doing the two things he loved: math and football.

“I recognize that this is somewhat irrational,” Urschel said on the segment. “But I am doing it.”

Not anymore.