Andrew Luck’s sudden retirement from the N.F.L. sent shock waves across the social media and sports talk radio landscape, with many athletes empathizing with the former No. 1 pick of the Indianapolis Colts for putting his physical and emotional well-being ahead of future earnings and on-field accolades.
But the unexpected exit of the franchise quarterback at the age of 29 prompted a debate over Luck’s grit in the face of a laundry list of injuries that have kept him sidelined for one full season and half of another during his six years in the league.
Luck, who has grappled with a lacerated kidney, a concussion, a torn labrum in his shoulder and other injuries, most recently had been dealing with an ankle problem.
“Retiring cause rehabbing is ‘too hard’ is the most millennial thing ever,” Doug Gottlieb, a Fox Sports Radio host and former college basketball player, said on Twitter on Saturday.
His swipe at Luck led to a torrent of criticism against him, with Luck’s defenders recalling a credit card theft incident that forced Gottlieb to leave the University of Notre Dame.
Chris Russo, a former WFAN radio host who has his own channel on SiriusXM satellite radio, Mad Dog Sports Radio, said in an interview on Sunday that it was fair to question the timing of Luck’s announcement just two weeks before the season’s start, but not the toll of his injuries.
“I can see that argument much better than the softness argument,” Russo said. “I just think he’s frustrated with all these injuries and he’s had enough.”
Russo said he could understand the frustration of Colts fans, some of whom booed as Luck left the field for the final time after a preseason game on Saturday night.
“It’s pretty shocking,” Russo said. “He’s a good kid. My overriding thing is, ‘Andrew, you couldn’t figure out a way to get yourself through the season so the team could get organized?’”
Torrey Smith, a veteran wide receiver for the Carolina Panthers, was quick to defend Luck on Twitter.
“Any athlete in any sport that has had a major injury understands exactly where Andrew Luck is mentally,” Smith posted on Saturday.
Kurt Warner, the most valuable player of Super Bowl XXXIV, said on Twitter that he was astonished by Luck’s retirement.
“IS TODAY APRIL 1?” Warner wrote on Saturday. “I’m going on a 2 hours sleep & feel like I am hallucinating or dreaming bc every1 telling me #AndrewLuck is retiring from NFL!!???”
The debate over Luck’s retirement comes amid a reckoning over the long-term health complications many retired football players face, including brain trauma and suicide.
“Do you want to spend several more years putting your body through the brutality of the N.F.L., or do you want to take the freedom you’ve earned and do something else that won’t put your long-term health at risk?” Dan Wolken, a national columnist for USA Today, wrote on Sunday. “Knowing what we know about football, anyone who criticizes a player for choosing the latter comes off like a troglodyte whose grasp of humanity runs no deeper than what play to call on third-and-three.”