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Ravens’ John Urschel, lineman and PhD candidate, retires from NFL aged 26

The Ravens offensive lineman and doctoral candidate has abruptly retired from the NFL after just three seasons, the team announced on Thursday

Baltimore Ravens offensive lineman John Urschel has abruptly retired from the NFL after just three seasons, the team announced on Thursday.

The 26-year-old from Winnipeg, who is a doctoral candidate in applied mathematics at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, was expected to compete for a starting role at center or guard in training camp, which gets under way this week in suburban Baltimore.

Urschels surprise decision comes two days after the release of a medical study that further underscored the link between the degenerative brain disease chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE) and participation in football. Researchers at Boston University and the Boston Veterans Affairs health system examined 111 deceased NFL players brains that were donated to scientific research and found CTE in 110 of them, or 99% of those studied.

The Baltimore Sun and ESPN said that Urschels decision was linked to the results of the study, citing anonymous sources close to the team.

Urschels agent, when reached by the Guardian on Thursday, said the player has no statement or comment and will not be doing media at this time.

This morning, John Urschel informed me of his decision to retire from football, Ravens coach John Harbaugh said in a statement Thursday. We respect John and respect his decision. We appreciate his efforts over the past three years and wish him all the best in his future endeavors.

Urschel has been pursuing his doctorate at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in the offseason with a concentration on spectral graph theory, numerical linear algebra and machine learning. He earned his bachelors and masters in mathematics at Penn State, where he played on the football team and was chosen by the Ravens in the fifth round of the 2014 NFL draft.

A January profile of Urschel for HBOs newsmagazine Real Sports With Bryant Gumbel found the lineman at odds with reconciling his two gifts. He further elaborated on the dilemma in a first-person essay for the Players Tribune in 2015.

John Urschel has balanced his studies with an NFL career

I recognize that this is somewhat irrational, but I am doing it, Urschel told HBOs Bernard Goldberg. Its more important to me that Im able to do the two things I love. I dont know if people have really done things that Ive done before. I dont know if theyll do it after me. But I enjoy carving out my own path and not listening to what people say I can and I cant do.

By retiring after three full seasons, Urschel is eligible for an NFL pension.

Urschel is not the first player to attribute early retirement to fears over the connection between football and CTE.

In March 2015, San Francisco 49ers linebacker Chris Borland retired after one season, a promising rookie campaign that saw him lead the team in tackles, due to concerns over the long-term effects of head trauma.

Read more: https://www.theguardian.com/sport/2017/jul/27/ravens-john-urschel-lineman-and-phd-candidate-retires-from-nfl-aged-26

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