Goodell on Johnson's future: 'Whatever it is, I support him'

Josh Katzenstein
The Detroit News

San Francisco — Chris Borland, 24, retired last year after just one impressive season with the 49ers. Then, fellow San Francisco linebacker Patrick Willis, 31, retired after eight mostly stellar seasons.

Now, Calvin Johnson might retire at age 30 after nine Hall-of-Fame caliber seasons, but NFL commissioner Roger Goodell doesn’t think players leaving the league early is becoming a trend.

“I think each individual player makes his own individual decision about how long they play the game, who they play for, under what conditions they play,” Goodell said at a Super Bowl news conference Friday. “Those are individual decisions that we respect, and they’re made for different reasons. We will continue to support our players, we’ll continue to help them in the decision-making process, but I don’t see so many people walking away from the game. I don’t agree with that.

“I see great athletes playing this game and loving to the play this game. I talk to players all the time who say, ‘I hope I can play forever.’ They can’t. That’s not possible. But guys love this game, they’re passionate about this game and if you lose that passion, maybe it is time to move on. That happens in life.”

Johnson has told some teammates that he’s considering retiring due health concerns. As the top offensive player for most of his career, Johnson has taken several big hits each season and has played through lingering injuries much of the past three seasons.

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“I don’t know what Calvin Johnson is balancing,” Goodell said. “He’s a great player and a great young man, and whatever it is, I support him. Whatever it is, if I can do something to help him, even if that’s in the next phase of his life, I’d do that, too.”

Yellow cards?

The NFL could soon discipline players on the field similar to professional soccer.

Goodell said he’s proposed a rule to the competition committee that would implement automatic ejections for players who receive two personal fouls. The goal, he said, would be to keep the focus on the game and sportsmanship.