Ravens player battling for starting job retires from NFL to finish Ph.D at MIT

Perhaps more than any other player in recent memory, John Urschel is more than prepared for life after football. So while it was somewhat surprising that the 26-year-old Ravens offensive lineman announced his retirement on Thursday, just weeks before the start of the 2017 season, he certainly has a fallback plan.

Urschel, who earned a bachelor's and master's degree in mathematics from Penn State before he was drafted by the Ravens in 2014, is currently working on his Ph.D in mathematics from MIT. According to the Ravens' official website, Urschel gets straight-A's and has already released several research papers.

According to Urschel's MIT bio, he spends "most of my time thinking about discrete Schrödinger operators, high dimensional data compression, algebraic multigrid, and Voronoi diagrams." And that, obviously, leaves little time for football.

In a 2015 post on ThePlayersTribune.com, Urschel wrote that he envied former 49ers linebacker Chris Borland, who retired after just one NFL season because of concerns about head injuries. Urschel explained that he played football, despite his promising mathematics career, because "I love the game."

Two years later and Urschel's perspective has changed, even though he was battling for the Ravens' starting center job. On Thursday morning, coach John Harbaugh weighed in on the news.

It's been a turbulent week for the Ravens; quarterback Joe Flacco is sidelined for at least a week with a back injury and running back Kenneth Dixon could miss the 2017 season after undergoing surgery for a torn meniscus.

CBS Sports Writer

Ryan Wilson has been an NFL writer for CBS Sports since June 2011, and he's covered five Super Bowls in that time. Ryan previously worked at AOL's FanHouse from start to finish, and Football Outsiders... Full Bio

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