Jacob Bell retires with health intact

Updated: May 11, 2012, 1:57 AM ET
ESPN.com news services

Jacob Bell surprised many this week when he walked away from the NFL just one month after signing a free-agent contract with the Cincinnati Bengals. For Bell, however, his health was more important than the paycheck.

The offensive lineman, in an appearance on ESPN's "Outside The Lines" on Wednesday, said he has gotten support from fellow NFL players for making the decision to walk away with his health intact.

"A lot have said -- the No. 1 thing people have said to me is, 'Your health is more important than the game. Your health is more important than the money.' "

Bell had signed a one-year, $890,000 deal with the Bengals in early April.

The 31-year-old Bell said he doesn't have any specific health concerns currently, but for him the decision to retire "was just quality of life" and a "risk vs. reward factor."

"I mean, we have so much more to look forward to after we're done with football that you know to have something like the brain trauma and the CTE stuff is such a factor," he said. "For me it was a big consideration."

Chronic traumatic encephalopathy, or CTE, is a neurological disorder stemming from repeated head trauma that has been identified in several deceased NFL players. CTE can lead to erratic behavior also associated with dementia and Alzheimer's disease.

Bell, who played in the NFL for eight seasons, with stops in Tennessee and St. Louis, told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch that the recent suicide of linebacker Junior Seau also factored into his decision.

Bell

"It's just crazy to see how someone like Junior Seau took his own life over -- God knows what he was really struggling and dealing with. But you have to believe it came from the game of football," Bell told the newspaper. "I want to get out before the game makes me get out, where I can get out on my own terms, and I can limit the amount of stress and negative impact that the game would leave on me."

Bell said Wednesday that he had "three or four" concussions that were documented in his career, but it's the head trauma that wasn't documented that also weighs on him.

"... now we are hearing the doctors and everybody saying, 'Did you get a ding? Did you see stars? Did you feel hollow for a second? Did your vision go out?' Well, if that's the case, then are we going to consider those concussions as well, because if that's the case, I don't know about you guys, but we did that on probably every series, you'd feel something like that.

"So if that's a concussion, have we had three concussions, or have we had 100 concussions?"

Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.

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