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On May 9, 2014, Chris Borland accomplished something that a select few could only dream of. Borland was selected with the 77th overall pick in the third round of the 2014 NFL Draft by the San Francisco 49ers. Eventually, the linebacker out of Wisconsin signed a four-year deal with the 49ers for $2.9 million. Less than one year later, Borland is calling it a career.
In an interview with ESPN's Outside the Lines on Monday, Borland revealed that he informed the Niners last Friday of his plan to retire from the NFL after just one season. The surprising announcement comes after a discussion "with family members, his concussion researchers, friends and current and former teammates, as well as studying what is known about the relationship between football and neurodegenerative disease."
"I just honestly want to do what's best for my health," Borland told "Outside the Lines." "From what I've researched and what I've experienced, I don't think it's worth the risk."
"I feel largely the same, as sharp as I've ever been. For me, it's wanting to be proactive," Borland said. "I'm concerned that if you wait till you have symptoms, it's too late. ... There are a lot of unknowns. I can't claim that X will happen. I just want to live a long healthy life, and I don't want to have any neurological diseases or die younger than I would otherwise."
During last year's training camp, Borland started to question his purpose for playing in the league. After suffering what was believed to be a concussion, the 24-year-old continued to push forward because he wanted to make sure he secured his spot on the final roster. "I just thought to myself, 'What am I doing? Is this how I'm going to live my adult life, banging my head, especially with what I've learned and knew about the dangers?'" Aside from the aforementioned concussion, Borland suffered two diagnosed concussion in eighth grade while playing soccer and during a high school football game.
Following the training camp incident, Borland became increasingly aware that his concern over potential long-term effects of head injuries would force him to purposely cut his career short. Once the season was over, Borland met with concussion researchers and former NFL players and the decision became "simple."
The Niners released the following statement:
"While unexpected, we certainly respect Chris' decision," team general manager Trent Baalke said. "From speaking with Chris, it was evident that he had put a great deal of thought into this decision. He was a consummate professional from day one and a very well respected member of our team and community. Chris is a determined young man that overcame long odds in his journey to the NFL and we are confident he will use the same approach to become very successful in his future endeavors. We will always consider him a 49er and wish him all the best."
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