Jaguars star forced to quit
Jacksonville Jaguars linebacker Russell Allen has been forced to announce his retirement at the age of just 27.
Allen has quit on medical grounds after suffering a brain injury in the week 15 fixture against Buffalo in December.
The former undrafted free agent thought he had sustained a mild concussion following a helmet-to-helmet clash with Bills centre Eric Wood.
He managed to finish the game despite struggling with blurred vision and a severe headache, but an MRI scan two days later revealed that he had actually suffered a stroke on the field.
Further tests throughout the off-season have confirmed that he now has a "dead spot" in the cerebellum area of his brain, making it impossible for him to resume his NFL career.
"It was strange because it was so routine," said Allen of the collision with Wood during the 27-20 defeat.
"We hit, I got off the block, no big deal. I felt something flash-like they say when you get your bell rung. I didn't lose consciousness. I walked back to the huddle and finished the drive."
After going undrafted in 2009, Allen was picked up by the Jaguars and served as a back-up until earning a starting role in 2012.
He led the Jacksonville defence with 201 tackles while operating in no fewer than seven different positions, although primarily at linebacker.
But Allen was cut from the Jaguars roster last week with the team citing a failed medical, although his agent then received calls from three teams interested in signing him without knowing the severity of his injury.
"If I could go back in time I would do it differently," Allen added. "Being in it and knowing how I felt in that moment, the game feels so serious.
"You're thinking, I can't come out, because what if someone else comes in and takes my job? Or they need me out there, and I can't come out because I really want to win. But you can't do that, and I learned that the hard way.
"I absolutely have seen guys with serious head injuries. I've seen dozens of those situations, but I would never say something, because they're grown men and they feel like they need to make those decisions for themselves.
"Historically, football is full of tough guys. I have no motive to say it needs to change. For generations football has been tough guys, and that's how it has to be. But there's a fine line.
"I've had, maybe 10 times in my career, when for a second I felt woozy after a hit. And what I've learned from this is that it's not something to be overlooked.
"If it feels like something's wrong, something's wrong. I want someone to know my experience, so they can know when they experience something similar."
Allen had nothing but praise for the way he was treated by the Jaguars following his injury, and he was grateful to coach Gus Bradley and general manager David Caldwell for their support.
"It gave me closure," Allen said. "Gus said I'd always be a part of this, no matter what. Dave said I could come back to Jacksonville whenever I wanted. Now I think I can watch again."