Jacob Bell retires; calls Junior Seau's death the 'cherry on top' that convinced him

Bell on Seau's death: "You have to believe it came from the game of football." (US Presswire)
A couple of days ago, I wondered if Junior Seau’s suicide would force NFL players to confront an uncomfortable question that would leave them asking how much their current occupation could adversely shape their futures.

Since Seau’s death, it seems to me, players are beginning to openly ask what life will be like after they retire. Like, for instance, when Giants defensive end Osi Umenyiora wonders whether he’ll be wheelchair-bound by the time he’s 45 -- though this idea was contrasted by LaVar Arrington, who decried the so-called sissification of the game.

Either way, it’s clear that Seau’s death has affected current players, probably moreso than any other recent retiree’s death. In one case, Seau’s actions have led a current player to step away from the game for good.

That’s Jacob Bell, who started 100 of 109 games from 2004-11 for the Titans and Rams and who tells the St. Louis Post Dispatch that he’s retiring in part because he’s worried about his future self.

Simply put, he’s concerned about head trauma and its future implications. And Seau’s suicide was the “cherry on top” that convinced Bell to end his career.

“The reality is that for me it came down to risk and reward,” he told the paper. “I think you've always got to weigh that out. At some point, you've got to kind of figure out what you're in the game for.

"One of my biggest concerns when it comes to the game in general is my personal health. One thing that's obviously on the minds of a lot of people lately is brain research and all the stuff that's going on with that. One of the big things that I thought about when I was considering this is how much do I love the game? How much can they pay me to take away my health and my future and being able to be with my family and just have a healthy lifestyle?”

Junior Seau, dead at 43

Bell signed with the Bengals a month ago, and on Wednesday afternoon, Cincinnati placed him on the reserve/retired list. Bell doesn’t know how many concussions he has suffered. If the definition of the brain injury is “seeing stars,” he figures he was suffering a minimum of 30 per season.

Which is long way off the estimate of former NFL linebacker Gary Plummer, who believes Seau suffered a minimum of five concussions per game. But it's a scary figure nonetheless.

Even taking away the death of Seau, Bell couldn’t help but ponder the effects of football on his family and about unknown diseases that could occur because of repeated head trauma. The fact deceased players have donated their brains for research gave him pause. And he decided it was better to turn off the game rather than risk giving himself an uncertain future.

"It's just crazy to see how someone like Junior Seau took his own life over -- God knows what he was really struggling and dealing with,” Bell said. “But you have to believe it came from the game of football. I want to get out before the game makes me get out, where I can get out on my own terms, and I can limit the amount of stress and negative impact that the game would leave on me."

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