In an Instagram post published Monday, former Denver Broncos safety David Bruton announced his retirement from the NFL after eight years over long-term concerns about his health.
“After 8 years in the NFL, I am calling it a day in the league,” Bruton wrote in the post. “I want to thank everyone who helped me along the way. This decision did not come easy being that I’ve done this for so long and my love for the game, but it comes to an end for everyone and mine is on July 24, 2017.”
Accompanying the text were three handwritten pages thanking everyone in his life who helped him on his journey to playing football professionally.
“The league has taught me so many things, as well as giving me many opportunities I never could have foreseen,” he wrote on the paper.
Despite thanking the league, the physical toll the sport has taken on his body and mind was one of the main motivating factors of his retirement.
Throughout his eight years in the NFL, the 30-year-old said he has suffered six concussions. Still, the decision to retire was a difficult one.
“A lot went into it. A lot of thought, a lot of communication with my family, talking about it with my friends,” Bruton told The Denver Post. “At the end of the day it came down to health and being able to still get up and play with the kiddos or take the dog on the run or go do hobbies. I just lost passion to continue playing. I felt like it was the best route for me to hang it up and pursue a different route.”
Bruton Experienced Successful NFL Career
Bruton was a fourth-round pick of the Broncos in the 2009 draft and ended up finishing his career with admirable numbers, including 141 tackles, two sacks, three interceptions, five forced fumbles and three fumble recoveries.
He was also part of the team’s Super Bowl campaign in the 2015 season but ended up missing the game due to a leg injury. As a result of the win, he still received a diamond-studded ring and got to shake hands with President Barack Obama.
Bruton was a fixture of the community and even launched his Bruton’s Books program to promote literacy among kids in Denver.
He was also voted a team captain in each of his final three seasons for the Broncos and was beloved by teammates.
“Bruton was a great teammate,” Broncos cornerback Chris Harris told The Denver Post. “He was extremely smart. He was just one of those guys who was very impactful on special teams for us and was a great leader. Just his intelligence and just the way he led by example.”
But, in March 2016, he signed a three-year deal with Washington to continue starting.
“I missed it out here, I did,” Bruton said. “It was definitely a change. Washington was run a lot differently than out here in Denver, and just how guys are was a lot different. … I don’t feel like I was as welcomed there as I was here in Denver.”
Concussion and Injuries Plagued Bruton’s NFL Career
Bruton is known for a lot of great things in the league, but some of his most lasting images are of his injuries. In a December 2015 game against the Pittsburgh Steelers, Bruton broke his leg early in the game but continued playing through the pain. People often remember the picture of him limping to the locker room with the help of his teammates.
In another iconic image of Bruton, he is seen on the ground grabbing his head in pain after suffering a brutal hit in 2014. He suffered a concussion that game and was taken to the hospital in an ambulance.
Although he wasn’t concerned about his injuries while playing, he thinks about the injuries more now that he has a 13-year-old daughter and 2-year-old son.
“I like to consider myself a smart guy. A bit of a nerd,” he said. “So I like to have my brain functioning when I get a little older. That was a big reason.”
His time in the league essentially ended after his sixth concussion in October. He was placed on the injured reserve and released by Washington not long after.
Despite calls to return by the Baltimore Ravens, Bruton simply didn’t have the motivation or passion to keep playing.
He is now taking courses with plans to become a physical therapist.
“It’s something that I’ve always wanted to do, since I was in high school,’” Bruton said to The Denver Post. “I’ve always wanted to help people and get them back on their feet, get them back to work. I did a lot of job shadowing when I was in high school and did a lot of work at a hospital, so I got to see some. And, of course, I did a lot of it while playing football.”
Concussions Continue to Cut NFL Careers Short
Bruton is just the latest in a string of players who have decided to retire early after suffering concussions.
Last year, linebacker A.J. Tarpley also announced his retirement from the NFL in an Instagram post after playing one season professionally. He similarly cited concussions as the reason.
“After months of introspection, I am retiring from football,” he wrote in an Instagram post. “I suffered the 3rd and 4th concussions of my career this past season and I am walking away from the game I love to preserve my future health.
“This decision is the hardest I’ve made yet but after much research and contemplation I believe it’s what is best for me going forward.”