San Francisco – NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell doesn't believe early retirements due to player safety are a problem in the game today.
Several players retired early last year, including Patrick Willis (age 30), Chris Borland (24), Jason Worilds (27) and others.
Lions receiver Calvin Johnson is contemplating retirement at the age of 30.
"I don't know what Calvin Johnson is balancing," Goodell said when asked about a potential Johnson retirement and other players leaving the game early at his annual Super Bowl press conference.
"He's a great player and a great young man and whatever it is I support it. Whatever it is, if I can do something to help him, even if this is the next phase of his life, I'll do that too."
Goodell said each individual player makes a personal decision on how long he'll play the game and that players leave the game for all kinds of reasons.
"We will continue to support our players," he said. "We'll continue to help them in those decision making processes. 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 play this game. I talk to players all the time and they say, 'I hope I can play forever.' They can't. It's not possible. But guys love this game, are passionate about this game, and if you lose that passion, maybe it is time to move on. And that happens in life."
Johnson is contemplating retirement because of health issues, but the recent trend from a small group of players leaving the game early to avoid health problems later in life could increase moving forward, according to Lions defensive tackle Haloti Ngata.
"I think guys are being more aware now," Ngata said last month while helping distribute water to the city of Flint with fellow defensive linemen. "It's just a different game now. Guys are getting injuries you never thought could happen. Just fighting through it kind of sucks.
"You want to play, but it's just tough coming home and your body's beat up and your family watches you and you can't carry your own kids sometimes. It makes it tough."
We'll see if the number of players leaving the game early increases moving forward?
Goodell also touched on a few other subjects pertinent to the NFL:
On playing in Mexico in 2016: "We are coming back to Mexico next season. We'll have a game on Nov. 21 between the Raiders and Texans. We're very excited about being back. As you know, we know we have a tremendous fan following down in Mexico. We believe it'll be a tremendous success and we're excited about being there."
The Raiders will be the home team at Azteca Stadium in Mexico's capital city. It'll be the fourth game played outside the U.S. in 2016.
On the future of the Pro Bowl:
"I'm not going to speculate on where the Pro Bowl is going, but I was disappointed in what I saw on Sunday. I raised this issue three or four years ago. We worked with a number of players to make changes. They had a positive impact, at least in the short term, but I didn't see that this past week.
"I think we want to talk with more players about that. We want to talk to our coaches about it. Talk to our personnel about it. I think it's very important to have a stage in which you celebrate our great players on what they can do on and off the field. We may have to think about that differently than we have in the past. If it's not quality, if it's not real competition that we can be proud of, we have to do something different."
On on-field discipline changes:
"I believe the league should pursue a policy where if there are two personal fouls in the game it results in the ejection of the player. I believe that's consistent with what we believe are safety issues, but I also believe it's consistent with what we believe are the standards of sportsmanship that we emphasis."
On more games being played in the U.K. in the future:
"We're very excited about the reaction to the three games. I think that's worked. I think fans have appreciated that. Every year I go back to London I see the fans are more sophisticated. They understand the game more. They are following it more.
"We are considering playing more games in the U.K. It's a balancing act with or schedules. As you know, we are playing in two different stadiums this year, so that gives us a little more flexibility to do that. I believe in the future we'll see more games in the U.K."