When the Bengals acquired offensive guard Jacob Bell in free agency, many figured that the veteran would push for a starting spot, if not provide valuable depth at a weak position. Then the Bengals spent a first round pick on Kevin Zeitler and many saw the writing on the wall for Bell.
But, no one would have guessed that Bell would have retired so suddenly without giving himself a shot through Training Camp. As it turns out, it wasn't the Zeitler acquisition that pushed Bell to call it quits--it was the tragic death of future Hall of Fame linebacker, Junior Seau. A few days ago when addressing his sudden retirement, Bell made it known that he is looking to increase awareness on concussions and the effects on players after their football careers are over.
Recently, Sports Illustrated's Peter King spoke with Bell about his future plans and what played into the decision.
On what his post-football career goals are:
Bell hopes to push for rookies entering the league to be given information on concussion awareness at the annual NFL Rookie Symposium, and he'd like to see a baseline brain scan taken of every player before entering the league. He wants the findings of the Boston University Center for the Study of Traumatic Encephalopathy, which is studying the brains of former athletes in contact sports, to be more readily available to players.
Some truth in advertising the Bell retirement: He's hoping to raise the dialogue about the risks of head trauma and overall player safety for current and former players.
It's an admirable aim on Bell's part and falls in line with the league's recent push on player safety and concussion awareness. Aside from the team selecting Zeitler and bringing in Travelle Wharton, King raised an interesting question to Bell regarding his decision to retire and salary:
But Bell was helped along by his contractual situation. Bell was due to make $6 million last season and $6 million this season under his contract with the Rams. Before the 2011 season, the Rams cut his 2011 pay to $3 million, and wiped out the last year on his contract. So Bell made $3 million in 2011 for St. Louis, was an unrestricted free agent, and signed a one-year, $890,000 deal with the Bengals.
I asked Bell: "If you were on your previous contract with the Rams, due to make $6 million this year, would you have retired?"
"That's a very good question,'' he said. "And therein lies the problem. How can you say when you're being offered so much money, the kind of money that can secure your future, to play football? So of course it played a role."
Money, Bell thinks, helps keep many players in the game longer than they might truly want to. "I guarantee you if you asked every player in the NFL if they'd do it for $500,000 a year, a lot of them would do something else,'' he said.
And there's the kicker. Unfortunately, this is likely the mindset of a lot of young players in the NFL today, who are making a large sum of money. By the sounds of it, Bell would have likely continued playing had he been making a higher salary than the veteran minimum he was set to receive from the Bengals.
A lot of players feel invincible and immune to future damage accrued from years of football. Or, even worse, they don't care. As long as youngsters have this mindset of "just pay me and I'll play no matter what", the NFL will remain profitable and will continue to dominate every other American sport. It's great to see that a longtime NFL veteran in Bell is giving back to the game's current and future participants and seems to have a productively aggressive approach in doing so.