Detroit Lions running back Jahvid Best hasn't played a down of football since Week 6 of the 2011 season because of a concussion. He was expected to be cleared to return last summer, but that never ended up happening. As a result, he missed the entire 2012 season, and the belief at this point is that he will never play football again.
Best hasn't officially walked away from the game of football just yet, but Lions wide receiver Nate Burleson thinks he should. Rather than risk further damage that could have long-term effects, Burleson thinks the sensible thing for Best is to simply retire. Burleson shared this advice with Best last season, and he talked about Best's situation on NFL Total Access on Monday. From NFL Evolution:
"And just being a guy that loves him as an individual vs. him, as a player, I just told him, ‘Honestly I’d rather see you healthy at 65 than healthy at 25,’ " Burleson added.
"I just told him that if it was me I would shut it down. You’ve got so much more life to live, and even though I would love to have you on the field, I don’t want it to risk anything that has to do with your brain or possibly your post career."
Burleson also said that Best "could have easily been one of the best running backs to put on a Lions jersey." He clarified that he was talking in past tense because the concussions Best has suffered have been so "powerful." It's clear that Burleson doesn't think Best will be able to play again, even though Best may not be ready to give up on the possibility of a future comeback.
As a fan of the Lions, I'd obviously like to see Best return. Not only would it be nice for all of his hard work to have a payoff, but he would help the Lions in a big way. However, as Burleson said, Best's future health is more important. Even if he were to be cleared someday, Best would be taking a big risk by returning given his history of brain injuries. Is it worth it? I guess that is ultimately up to Best.
The caveat here is that as long as Best is under contract, it probably doesn't make sense for him to officially retire. He can continue working to come back even if it's unlikely that doctors will ever clear him. This allows him to continue earning his salary from the Lions, and at the very least it gives him some motivation to keep working toward something.