Giving up something you love is always very difficult. Athletes have struggled with retiring from their respective sports. These types of decisions are life changing; many NFL players have been playing football since they were just a preteen, and not having football leaves a gap in their lives that many struggle to fill.
Even with the new rules that cut down on physical play, it is not common for players to able to play in the league for an extended time. For some veterans, 2012 will be their last year playing the game that they love so much.
Here are a couple of NFL veterans that are approaching the ends of their career as the 2012 season looms.
This will be Matt Hasselbeck’s last season in the NFL. The Tennessee Titan, who was drafted in 1999, must realize that his career is coming to an end. It is time to move on and let Jake Locker begin his NFL career.
Hasselbeck has had a nice career; he has thrown for 194 touchdowns and has a career passer rating of 82.2. These are certainly not Hall of Fame numbers, but they are nothing to be disappointed in.
With the Jake Locker era looming, Hasselbeck might not make it through the season as the starter. Hasselbeck has been a great mentor for Locker, which will greatly help Locker's career. Hasselbeck will leave the NFL and most likely have a job revolving around football.
His brother, Tim, currently works for ESPN, so it would not be a surprise to see the better quarterback of the two land a job in that industry as well.
Ray Lewis has had a tremendous career; he will go down as one of the best interior linebackers to ever play the game. Not only is he a force on the field, his leadership ability is what really sets him apart from any player in the league.
Lewis plays every down like it’s his last, and in 2012 that mindset might become a reality. The 37-year-old has achieved everything that a football player sets out to achieve. When I think of the most dominate players of my lifetime (1991-present) Lewis is one of the first players that comes to mind.
While his body has held up considerably well, we saw in 2011 that his body might have finally had enough. Lewis missed considerable time with a toe injury that he had trouble overcoming.
Lewis is one of the most determined players in the NFL, but he needs to realize that he needs to hang up the cleats before he really causes harm to his body.
Unlike the previous two players, Ochocinco might not be on an NFL roster come Week 1. Ochocinco will not be paid unless he makes the Miami Dolphins’ Week 1 roster, meaning the Dolphins have the power to cut him at any time.
Ochocinco had trouble with the playbook in New England; this combined with his skill level decreasing makes him on the verge of finding himself living in Miami just like any normal retired person.
While with the Cincinnati Bengals, Ochocinco saw his stats start falling off during the 2008 season. It was capped off last season with the New England Patriots, when he only made 15 catches and landed in the end zone just once.
Ochocinco looked lost all of last year, so until a preseason game this year we will not know what type of receiver we will see in 2012. If he does make the team, Ochocinco does not have many years left in the tank. 2012 could very well be the last for one the most entertaining players in NFL history.
Once regarded as the best outside linebacker in the game, Shawne Merriman has seen a tremendous drop-off in his play the past couple of years. If the Buffalo Bills decide to cut Merriman, I believe that it will be the end of his career.
The Bills added two great defensive ends this offseason by acquiring Mario Williams and Mark Anderson. To make things worse, Clark Judge of CBS Sports reports that Merriman will move to defensive end in the new 4-3 scheme. This move will leave Merriman with a small chance of starting for the Bills.
Merriman is set to make $4 million in 2012. That is a lot of money for someone who will likely only be used in pass-rushing schemes. The Bills would be foolish to sign Merriman to another contract of this magnitude after 2012, and Merriman is unlikely to take the pay cut that the Bills would require.
Merriman is likely headed towards the end of his career, which is sad based on how strong his career started off. Maybe Merriman could move on and become a spokesperson for the negative affects of steroids, because they have destroyed his body and his career.