Good for B.J. Raji
B.J. Raji says he's taking at least a year off of football. He may be gone for good.
I say good for him.
It's probably fair to call Raji a bit of an underachiever. He had a monster season in 2010, made the Pro Bowl on reputation in 2011, and tailed off dramatically since then: the big man recorded just half a sack between 2012 and 2015.
Constant re-shuffling on defense and a season-long absence in 2014 certainly contributed to that dismal total, but pass rushing luminary Dezman Moses somehow managed to record four sacks in 2012 alone. Surely Raji could have managed something.
And yet, I find it hard to be disappointed in B.J. Of course, it would have been awesome for Raji to fully embrace his "Freezer" persona, evolving into the 3-4 version of Warren Sapp. But his retirement statement leaves me feeling something different: proud.
"I have played football and been defined as a football player for as long as I can remember," Raji writes in a statement on his hiatus. "This offseason was the first time I felt myself pulled in another direction and I am excited to be 'all in' with my family back home and then explore new frontiers. I am not exactly sure what the next phase of life will entail, but I am confident that all of the lessons I learned during my NFL journey will provide a solid foundation for success."
If you haven't read the whole thing yet, you should. Raji shows thoughtfulness that's becoming increasingly common among professional athletes, and I think that's a trend we should embrace. The days of athletes as singular entities whose entire identity could be enclosed in four painted lines is over.
Raji shows himself as a person with depth and complex desires, and if his abrupt departure from the NFL does nothing more than remind us that the players we follow and shower with adulation are actual people, too, then it's already a success.
Good for B.J. Raji. I hope he finds what he's looking for.