Jacbob Bell (Image: Christian Petersen/Getty Images)
(USA TODAY) - Bounties, brain injuries and Junior Seau's suicide -- apparently it all became too much for Jacob Bell, who has abruptly decided to retire from the NFL after eight seasons. Bell, a guard, called Seau's death the "cherry on top" as he mulled his decision.
G Jacob Bell, left, split his NFL career between the Titans and Rams.
"I've been thinking about some different things, thinking about health, thinking about the future of my family having to deal with some kind of crazy disease that nobody even knows about, where people want their brains studied after they're dead. Donating their brains to research," Bell tells the St. Louis Post-Dispatch.
"It's just crazy to see how someone like Junior Seau took his own life over -- God knows what he was really struggling and dealing with. But you have to believe it came from the game of football. I want to get out before the game makes me get out, where I can get out on my own terms, and I can limit the amount of stress and negative impact that the game would leave on me."
Bell, 31, started 100 games in a career split between the Tennessee Titans and St. Louis Rams. He signed with the Cincinnati Bengals last month, but recent events caused him to rethink another year in the trenches.
"I've had a lot of fun playing. I've seen a lot of things. I've played in a lot of games. The reality is that for me it came down to risk and reward. I think you've always got to weigh that out. At some point, you've got to kind of figure out what you're in the game for," said Bell.
"One of my biggest concerns when it comes to the game in general is my personal health. One thing that's obviously on the minds of a lot of people lately is brain research and all the stuff that's going on with that. One of the big things that I thought about when I was considering this is how much do I love the game? How much can they pay me to take away my health and my future and being able to be with my family and just have a healthy lifestyle?"
It's an uncomfortable question many inside and outside the NFL are asking with increasing frequency.
Bell added he didn't want to be hobbled in retirement by knee injuries and such. But the lack of quantitative knowledge on head injuries seemed to be a much bigger factor in his decision.
"Is a concussion, 'Oh, I saw stars?' " Bell asks. "Is a concussion, 'Oh, I got a little wobbly for a second -- I'm OK now?' Or is a concussion, 'I got hit and I can't go back in the game because I truly don't know where I'm at and what day it is?'
"If you're telling me 'I'm seeing stars' is some sort of concussion, then you're getting a couple a week. You're going to get a minimum 30 concussions in a season. That just gives you a ballpark figure of what people are truly dealing with."
Too much for Bell and perhaps more of his peers.