Buffalo Bills linebacker A.J. Tarpley is retiring from the NFL after just one season, saying he cannot risk more concussions.
"After months of introspection, I am retiring from football," Tarpley, 23, wrote on Instagram on Wednesday. "I suffered the 3rd and 4th concussions of my career this past season and I am walking away from the game I love to preserve my future health."
Tarpley's exit from pro football comes amid increased concern over damage to players' brains.
“This decision is the hardest I’ve made yet but after much research and contemplation I believe it’s what is best for me going forward,” Tarpley wrote.
The Bills confirmed his retirement.
Tarpley’s Instagram post features a photo of his greatest and last play in the NFL. He made a key interception in the Bills’ final game of the season, helping Buffalo beat the New York Jets 22-17, and denying their rivals a shot at the playoffs. In his season with the Bills, Tarpley played in 14 games, recording five tackles, two interceptions, one sack and a forced fumble.
Tarpley’s announcement comes just days after former San Francisco 49er Chris Borland, the 25-year-old who quit after one season for similar concerns, said early retirement would become the new normal in the NFL, as CBS Sports notes.
“Well, I think an old adage is that you play till the wheels fall off,” Borland told the Detroit Free Press. “You play till you can’t anymore. You have to be carried off the field. I think that’ll change.”
Indeed, increasing numbers of players have been quitting the league with health fears. Last month, Kansas City Chiefs safety Husain Abdullah said he would be leaving the NFL after seven seasons, citing concussions.
Also in March, an NFL official became the league’s first high-ranking officer to acknowledge a link between football-related head trauma and degenerative brain diseases like chronic traumatic encephalopathy.
Other NFL leaders have been hesitant to endorse that view. The NFL fought back fiercely when The New York Times published an article in March that claimed the league’s concussion research was flawed and resembled the tobacco industry’s denial of the dangers of cigarettes. The league demanded a retraction, which the Times refused.