The abrupt retirements of NFL superstars Andrew Luck and Rob Gronkowski in the prime of their careers this summer surprised many in the football world, but their decisions made plenty of sense to four-time Super Bowl champion Terry Bradshaw.
Gronkowski and Luck each cited mental exhaustion and painful injuries as key factors in their decision to step away from football at the relatively young age of 30. But an ability to excel on the field despite those injuries – earning lucrative contracts and endorsement deals in the process – provided both players with the ability to retire on their terms.
“They’ve got money security, which is important – I don’t care what you say, it’s very important,” said Bradshaw, who spoke to FOX Business on behalf of Pfizer’s “All About Your Boom” campaign. “Two, they’ve had a great deal of success. And then three, injury does drive you into retirement. You get tired of fighting, fighting and fighting, rehab, rehab, injury, rehab.”
Aside from their on-field accomplishments, Luck and Gronkowski were considered among the NFL’s most savvy businessmen. Luck earned nearly $110 million in salary during his career, plus endorsements with Nike and DirecTV and an equity stake in sports drink brand BodyArmor.
A three-time Super Bowl champion, Gronkowski is known for having saved all of the more than $53 million he earned in salary during his nine seasons in the NFL. Instead of burning through his pay, Gronkowski relied on proceeds from a bevy of sponsorship deals. In retirement, he recently became the face of Abacus Health’s CBDMedic brand and announced plans to become an advocate for use of CBD as a pain reliever for professional athletes.
Bradshaw, who transitioned from the NFL to a career in acting and television work for FOX NFL Sunday, noted that his own retirement from football was motivated by his battles with constant injuries.
“When you make the decision that they’ve made, you can rest assured of one thing – it is something well thought-out and it is something that they’re comfortable with,” Bradshaw said. “Our coaches all tell us, you have to plan your life after football, you’ve got to get on with your life’s work. You know what? You really do. I applaud both of these young men for making the decision, because they’re both under 30 and at the peak of their careers.”
Injuries are among the biggest risks to the financial security of NFL players, many of whom do not have the luxury of guaranteed money in their contracts. An ill-timed hit that saps on-field production or takes a player off the field entirely can have an immediate impact on a player’s earning potential.
The game’s physical nature is also one of the main reasons players and their union representatives have long resisted the idea of a longer NFL season – even if it would more money in their pockets. While owners are widely expected to push for an 18-game season during labor talks in the coming months, Bradshaw said he believes an expanded campaign is unlikely.
“That’s not going to sit well with the players’ association, and if it does, you’re going to have to open up the 53-man roster and make it a 73-man roster, which means they’re going to spend more money, and you know the owners don’t want to spend more money. They want to keep things the way they are so they can make more money,” Bradshaw said.