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Jake Plummer: Staying in game when heart’s not in it dangerous


There was already a small-but-growing trend of NFL players walking away in their primes, with last week’s decisions of Patrick Willis, Jason Worilds and Jake Locker to leave the game for varying reasons.

But when 49ers linebacker Chris Borland chose to step away from the game last night, it shined a new light on the decisions players have to make as it pertains to their current and future happiness.

Former Cardinals and Broncos quarterback Jake Plummer understands, having retired at the age of 32.

“My heart wasn’t in it, and you can’t play this game without 100 percent heart and soul into it,” Plummer told Kent Somers of the Arizona Republic. “If you try, you are going to get hurt and you’re also cheating the game, your teammates. And that’s the beauty of the football, it’s a team game.

“People ask me all the time if I miss it and I say, ‘You’re damn right I miss it. I’ll miss playing it until the day I die.’

“But, God, I wouldn’t go back to playing with what my life holds now, my family, my kids.”

While Plummer had a much longer run than Borland, there was also a clear financial component that could have forced him back. The Buccaneers traded for his rights in 2007, and he had to repay them $3.5 million to stay away.

“Everybody has different things going on in their lives, and football ranks differently for everyone,” Plummer said. “For some guys, it’s the most important thing in their lives, and for other guys, it’s three or four notches down. It’s hard to say what guys are weighing [retirement] on. But I applaud them if that’s what they feel in their heart.”

Whether the decision was made with the heart or the head, the growing number of such calls has to be a concern to the league.