Offensive lineman Manny Ramirez announced his sudden retirement from the National Football League late last week. He was preparing to enter his tenth season – which was to be his first with the Chicago Bears.
Ramirez, 33, began his career with the Detroit Lions (2007-2010, although the team released him that October) before joining the Denver Broncos (2011-2014), with whom he reached the Super Bowl in 2013. He went back to the Motor City for 2015, before signing with Chicago earlier this year.
Ramirez played 83 games during his career – 65 as a starter – and was considered a durable center-guard.
But after announcing his retirement while the Bears were in the process of offseason workouts, many are wondering if concussions or some other injury concern is to blame.
Ramirez’s only public comment on the issue has been “When it’s time, it’s time,” which he told the Bears’ website. The team's front office has yet to comment.
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“I’m almost positive that [injuries and/or concussions] played a major part in his decision,” Shawn Sierra, a sports reporter for TeleChicago TV and a former professional football player, told Fox News Latino.
He added, “[Ramirez] said that his body told him it was time to retire. In addition to the aches and the mysterious pains that pop up out of nowhere, and the necessary activity in the morning to feel loose, I'm sure he realized that with all of the previous players [who have been] dealing with concussions and head trauma, that it would be a good time to step away.”
Sierra said, “Plus he probably figured … ‘Retire now and maintain the health you already have.’”
Players have become more aware of their long-term health recently as many former NFLers have been discovered to have brain damage resulting from concussions. A number of prominent stars have walked away from the gridiron, even some who were in the prime of their careers.
And Ramirez has played some of the most dangerous positions in the game.
“He definitely had about two years left,” Sierra told FNL. “But there comes a point in time that you either lose the passion to prepare for the season, or you just lose the passion to play altogether.”
While fans see the action on Sundays and those in the media at times get to see the grind of practices, what few people see is the constant preparation and conditioning that players put themselves through.
Sierra says that it’s those unseen moments that can take the biggest toll on a player.
“After the season is over, players usually take about two months off to recover,” he said. “Then it starts with lifting, conditioning, OTAs [organized team activities], then mandatory mini camps.”
“A professional football player really only gets about two months off during the year. And for such a physical and brutal game, two months off is not sufficient for the body to heal adequately. And to do this for many years really takes a toll,” Sierra told FNL.
Sierra played for 17 years in Italy and at low-level U.S. football leagues before hanging up his cleats. He coached for 12 seasons after that before transitioning into journalism, so he can fully attest to the difficulty of the decision making process that players go through when considering retirement.
“My body took much longer to recover from week to week. The necessary extended recovery time was a huge indication that my time playing football was coming to an end,” he said.
Now that Ramirez has decided to ride off into the sunset, there is one less Latino playing in the NFL, but Sierra remains hopeful.
“It opens the door for other Latinos to follow the path that has been blazed by many before them, starting with Hall of Famer Anthony Muñoz to Tony Gonzalez to Jeff Garcia to Roberto Garza and, of course, Manny Ramirez.”