The NFL doesn’t have the greatest reputation for its treatment of retired players, but Seahawks linebacker K.J. Wright took the NFL shield to heart after a recent trip to Washington, D.C.
Wright told 710 ESPN Seattle’s Gee Scott Thursday that he stumbled on an email about the NFLPA Externship, which exposes NFL players to internship opportunities and ideas for post-football careers. He jumped at the opportunity and spent a week and a half in the nation’s capital. Wright said former Seahawks Dion Bailey and A.J. Francis were among the other players there. Bailey chose the government and politics program while Francis did radio broadcasting and production. Wright worked with the NFLPA, which is headquartered in D.C., and learned about player development.
“I’m just trying to dip and dab into new things, see what I like so when the time comes, I’ll have a good solid plan,” said Wright, who turns 28 in July.
Wright, who in 2016 was selected to the first Pro Bowl of his six-year career, said he specifically took interest in the NFLPA’s program for retired players called “the trust” and offered insight into how to make the program better.
The Wall Street Journal reported that the average NFL career is 2.66 years, according to numbers from 2014. That shelf life is down from an average of 4.99 years in 2008.
Some Seahawks, including cornerback Richard Sherman and defensive lineman Michael Bennett, have been vocal critics of the NFL and commissioner Roger Goodell. Last season, Sherman wrote an essay about his frustration with the “hypocrisy” of the league. Later, in a video for The Players’ Tribune, he ripped the NFL for not really caring about the health of its players.
The criticism came on the heels of the ongoing debate over concussions, which includes the 2015 movie “Concussion” in which Will Smith portrays forensic neuropathologist Dr. Bennet Omalu who discovered Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy – a progressive brain disease found in athletes with a history of brain trauma – and the NFL’s denial of his findings.
Wright said he met with DeMaurice Smith, executive director of the NFLPA, and ex-linebacker Don Davis, who is the organization’s senior director of player affairs.
When asked if he thinks the NFL is doing better than in the past for retired players, Wright responded: “I believe so.”
“They’re out there working every day for us to make sure while we’re playing life is good, and when we’re done life is good,” he said. “I believe it’s up to the players as well to invest in themselves to make sure that, OK, I know that this lifespan for me is short, so let me get the most out of this so when I do get out of this … I have something, versus just sticking to just football, not practicing other skills that you have such as networking, such as learning about different aspects about life besides football.
“So you’ve got to invest in yourself so that when the time does come, you’re ready to go.”