UPDATE 20/09/2014: Although Abraham returned to the Cardinals intending to resume his career, the severity of his concussion has forced the team to place him on the IR for the remainder of the season, effectively ending his career, according to multiple sources.
The NFL active Sack Leader John Abraham is apparently mulling retirement after admitting his “heart isn’t in the game anymore”. He made the claims to head coach Bruce Arians, following a concussion he suffered in the Arizona Cardinals win against the San Diego Chargers. Abraham, whose well documented legal troubles this offseason kept him out of most of the Cardinals training camp, has been granted a 5 day leave of absence from the team to mull over his future.
Arizona Cardinals head coach Bruce Arians claims to have had a “long talk” with NFL sack leader John Abraham, with the linebacker admitting that his heart is no longer in football, according to Sirrius XM Radio
Bruce Arians tells Late Hits that he had a long talk with John Abraham today and his "heart isn't in the game anymore" @alexmarvez
— SiriusXM NFL Radio (@SiriusXMNFL) September 11, 2014
ESPN’s Adam Schefter is also reporting that sources close to Abraham have confirmed Abraham has been suffering from serious memory loss for more than a year—possibly as a side effect of numerous undiagnosed and untreated concussions—though Arians told Sirius that this was “news to him” and had not been part of Abraham’s discussions with the team.
Abraham joined the Cardinals in 2013, after previous stints with the Atlanta Falcons and New York Jets. Although the concussion suffered during Monday Night’s game is, officially, his first on record, it is only during the last couple of seasons that the NFL has really stepped up its concussion monitoring and diagnosis protocol, and for most of his 14 year career, most concussions went undiagnosed and unreported.
Cardinals general manager Steve Keim spoke briefly on the situation, confirming that the team had given Abraham space to assess his future in the NFL.
“He indicated to us that he just wanted to take a step back and take some time to consider the time and the effort and constraints it takes to play in the NFL,” Keim said during the NFL “Move the Sticks” podcast, “He’s played for quite a long time and he’ll reassess that and determine in the next couple of days whether he still wants to play.”
According to sources close to the situation, Abraham has been granted a five day leave of absence from the team, meaning the player will miss the teams next game against the New York Giants. After this time, he will be expected either to return to the team, or announce his retirement from football. Abraham is not expected to be released from his duties in Arizona and seek employment elsewhere, on a team where he could play a less-pivotal role.
Abraham is the Cardinals only established pass rusher in a linebacking group already depleted by injuries, suspensions and players seeking employment elsewhere. He is one of the the most experienced players in the Cardinals young defensive group, and his retirement at this juncture would be a huge blow to a team with real playoff aspirations.
In spite of his age, Abraham added 11.5 sacks in 2013, bringing his career total to 133.5, 9th on the all time list, and, even at 36 many believed he could crack the Top 5, surpassing Michael Strahan’s 141.5 by the end of 2014.
Even if Abraham returns to the Cardinals, however, he is likely to see greatly reduced playing time following his admission that the game is no longer his passion, making his chances of reaching these totals much slimmer. The Cardinals will need to try and identify his replacement, giving more plays to younger players, and in high-stakes situations, will be forced to question whether Abraham will be willing to put his body on the line and do what the team require of him.
If he does retire, Jared Allen will take over as the NFL’s active sack leader, and is all but guaranteed to overtake Abraham by seasons end. Allen, at 32, is currently on track to easily surpass 150 sacks before his career is over, a feat achieved by only 4 players before him.
A stellar season in 2014 could conceivably have seen Abraham reach this milestone too, but this always seemed a tough ask for the ageing player, and knowing his long time goals may be out of reach may also factor into his decision.
We will keep you posted as this story develops.