Jim Brown did it. Robert Smith did it. Brett Favre had the opportunity to do it. Carson Palmer is in the process of doing it. And for a short period of time, Tiki Barber did it as well.
What these football players did or are in the process of doing, few professional football players ever accomplish.
I would venture that the number of players that have achieved this feat is far less than the number of players that have won Super Bowl rings.
The feat that few players manage to accomplish is the ability to leave the game on their own terms.
Imagine a life in which you dictate your own terms and control your own destiny. Now that is what I call freedom! This sense of freedom equates to self-empowerment, which is not commonplace in the NFL.
Most players are forced out of the game due to injury. If injury does not get you, age discrimination will. Imagine at age thirty-three you are told you are too old, and we do not want you anymore.
Besides injury and age discrimination, the other major factor that prevents players from leaving the game on their own terms is the fact that most players do not have the financial freedom to walk away from the game.
How is this, if players are paid so handsomely while playing?
Do the math. If you make a million a year or even a quarter of that but spend at a rate of 70-to-80 percent of your income, outside of football there are not many jobs available that allow players make the type of money they need to sustain their lifestyles, given their skills sets.
Thus players hang on as long as possible until they are graciously kicked out the door. These are the retirement ceremonies, and that type of treatment is reserved for star players. Role players do not even get this royal treatment. They are cut and sent packing unceremoniously via a phone call.
Because of poor off-the-field decisions, Tiki Barber has opted to return to the game that made him rich and famous. Tiki Barber and his decision to un-retire reflect a deep fall from grace.
To play professional football is both a financial blessing and a privilege. I can understand why Tiki would take advantage of the opportunity if in dire straits. However, you tell me, what is the more dignified story line: I walked away from the game a dignified and empowered man, or I had to swallow my pride and hope someone would give me another chance to play?