When you are trying to compile a list of 25 NFL players that had their careers end too soon, what are some legitimate reasons that would be viewed as acceptable criteria? We will try to distinguish what are reasons to be included and what are reasons to be excluded from this list. You will not see any players on this list that hung on until the bitter end that were told that nobody wanted them any longer.
While doing research for this list, I came across a study from 2008 that the average NFL career only lasts for three and a half years. The average age of a player in the NFL is only 26.68 years old.
I think an injury to a player that was in the prime of his career and forced into retirement is an acceptable reason for making this list. If for some reason the player made a decision that their career needed to go in a different direction other than the NFL, that is an acceptable reason as well.
Some players succumb to family pressure to leave too early, or take advantage of an opportunity to go out on top when they clearly could have kept playing, as other acceptable reasons to make our list.
As for reasons why we exclude a player from this list, we start with when somebody was physically worn down, or they had clearly lost a step or two. Trying to stay in the league for financial gain, even though they had no business trying to be on a roster any more, would also be a reason not to appear on this list. If a player just lost the will to compete mentally, but their body was still physically fit, that would also qualify as a reason to exclude them.
Every year in the NFL we see a certain percentage of players that no longer are going to appear on an NFL active roster. Those players in question may not realize it at the time, but they are in the process of retiring from the NFL. They just don't realize that their career is about ready to end. It is over.
Either nobody has the courage to tell them directly to their face, or there is an agent, spouse or other family member that has selfish reasons for the player to try to hang on for another year or two.
We are going to list 25 players in NFL history that we feel left the game too early. We will also nominate some players for honorable mention on the second slide. If you are aware of others that also could or should have been included in this presentation, please let us know in the comments.