At some point in the middle of August in 2019, Andrew Luck decided enough was enough. He was in pain yet again, and this time, the agony was not ceasing. He told Colts owner Jim Irsay and team officials he needed to retire from football in order to live the life he wants to live, a life without this kind of suffering.
During the Colts’ Week 3 preseason game against the Bears, ESPN broke news of Luck’s retirement. The announcement came ahead of schedule; Luck had planned to explain his decision to the team after the Chicago game and address media the following day. Everything was accelerated once word of Luck’s retirement spread throughout Lucas Oil Stadium.
Luck, 29, retired after playing six NFL seasons in seven years. The No. 1 overall pick in the 2012 NFL Draft missed the entire 2017 season while recovering from a torn labrum in his throwing shoulder, and he did that after playing the entire 2016 season through pain.
As it turns out, that 2016 season planted the seed for Luck’s premature retirement. After that year, Luck told himself he would never put himself in another situation that would jeopardize his long-term health — a situation he found himself managing over the summer of 2019.
Luck was dealing with a mysterious ankle injury — “a myriad of issues,” as he says — that was not improving. He was stuck in a cycle of injury, pain and rehab, and he figured retirement was the only way out of that cycle.
Here is Luck’s full explanation of his retirement:
“This is not an easy decision. Honestly it’s the hardest decision of my life. But it is the right decision for me.
“For the last four years or so I’ve been in this cycle of injury, pain, rehab; injury, pain, rehab. And it’s been unceasing and unrelenting both in-season and offseason. I felt stuck in it. The only way I see out is to no longer play football. It’s taken my joy of this game away. I’ve been stuck in this process.
“I haven’t been able to live the life I want to live. And after 2016 when I played in pain and was unable to really practice, I made a vow to myself that I would not go down that path again. I find myself in a similar situation. The only way forward for me is remove myself from football and this cycle that I’ve been in. I made a vow to myself that if I ever did again, I would choose me in this sense.
“It’s very difficult. I love this team. I love my teammates, the folks in our building, the fans, the game of football. And as part of this team, and because of how I feel I know that I am unable to pour my heart and soul into this position. Which would not only sell myself short, but the team in the end, as well.
“And its sad. But I also have a lot of clarity in this. It’s been a difficult process.”
In six seasons with the Colts, Luck compiled 23,671 passing yards, 171 passing touchdowns, 1,590 rushing yards and another 14 scores on the ground. That doesn’t include his numbers in the playoffs, where he led Indianapolis to four wins and, in 2014, a trip to the AFC championship game. He was a four-time Pro Bowl selection and the 2018 NFL comeback player of the year.
Luck’s football story, though, can’t be told without the injuries that ultimately led to his retirement in 2019.
Physical toll on Andrew Luck through 6 NFL seasons:
» Torn cartilage in 2 ribs
» partially torn abdomen
» a lacerated kidney that left him peeing blood
» at least 1 concussion
» a torn labrum in his throwing shoulder
» and this mysterious calf/ankle issue that led to this
— Zak Keefer (@zkeefer) August 25, 2019
After Luck’s retirement became public, the level of shock that permeated throughout the NFL was on the level of the shock many felt when the likes of Barry Sanders, Jim Brown and Calvin Johnson retired. He had two years left on the five-year contract he signed in 2016, and there was little reason to believe he wouldn’t play out that deal with Indianapolis while earning himself another extension.
Luck’s body simply would not allow it. He made roughly $97 million in seven years with the Colts, and the fact that he was scheduled to earn another $24 million through 2020 (plus more in a possible extension) further proved the difficulty of his decision.
Below is Luck’s full press conference when he explained his retirement and fielded questions about the timing.