Jordan Reed, former Pro Bowl tight end, retiring from NFL due to concussion-related issues

Mike Jones
USA TODAY

As he wrapped up his seventh NFL season this past winter after another campaign interrupted by injury, Pro Bowl tight end Jordan Reed still held out hope of extending his career. 

But then the 30-year-old started observing signs that in his words, let him know that “something wasn’t right.”

Reed had begun to suffer from frequent episodes of blurry vision, and it reached the point where he knew he needed to seek medical advice. The vision problems were among the side effects of many concussions Reed had suffered on the football field, doctors told him. After years of pushing through injuries, concussions and other warning signs, Reed concluded his body had reached its limit. So he has decided to retire, hoping to preserve his quality of life. 

“I think at this point, what made the choice easy was the fact that I’m dealing with some stuff from concussions and stuff like that,” Reed told USA TODAY Sports. “Before, I was able to ignore it and not think about it too much, but when I start dealing with stuff, that’s when it becomes realistic and makes me sit back and think about what I need to do and how I want to live my life after football.

Jordan Reed finished his career with 355 receptions for 3,602 yards and 28 touchdowns.

"I had to really seek professional help and sit down and talk with people ... and it’s definitely the right decision right now.”

Reed, who had seven documented concussions during his playing career, and several others while playing for the University of Florida, added, “It really came down to being able to be a healthy person for my family. Being there for my children is what’s most important to me. Dealing with a lot of injuries and concussions, I’m just physically not able to continue playing football anymore."

When healthy, Reed ranked among the most unstoppable tight ends in the NFL. He earned Pro Bowl honors in 2016, and had it not been for injuries, likely would have garnered more accolades. 

Reed missed the entire 2019 season after sustaining a helmet-to-helmet hit and concussion during a preseason game at Atlanta. Symptoms from that concussion lingered throughout the regular season, and he was still in the concussion protocol when Washington released him in February 2020. Reed returned to action in 2020 with the 49ers. A knee injury limited him to 10 games, and Reed recorded 26 catches for 231 yards and four touchdowns.

But following this season, the issues from 2019 returned, and Reed knew he had to take them seriously. 

“After that big hit versus Atlanta, I was dealing with blurry vision and things like that and (this winter), I was dealing with similar symptoms where I know something isn’t right and it wouldn’t be smart for me to go back out there and subject myself to further damage,” Reed explained.

He said he has no regrets about his NFL career. 

“As I look back over my career, I’m definitely grateful for my time and I appreciate everything I was able to accomplish in the NFL and I’ll cherish those memories forever,” Reed said. 

Reed said although he has observed improvement in the NFL’s education and rules to protect players and reduce the risk of brain injuries, if he had a son (he has three daughters), he wouldn’t let him play football.

“By the time he would be ready to play football it would be 10, 15 years from now, and I think the game will evolve and become safer,” Reed speculated. “But I would really have to see how the game would have changed. But as it stands now, I probably wouldn’t let him play because it’s dangerous, and I wouldn't want him to have to deal with what I deal with. So I wouldn’t let him play at this point.”

Reed will now turn his attention to educating himself on the cannabis industry. During his playing career, he found the plant to be a safer method of pain management, and he believes improved education and research could benefit football players. 

The NFL last year relaxed its rules on marijuana use, decreasing the window of the calendar in which players are tested, doing away with suspensions, setting a new threshold for a positive test and raising the allowed amount of THC that a player can have in his system.

Many NFL players have said cannabis helped reduce the effects of concussions, and Reed agreed. 

“I used it when I had injuries, surgeries, concussions and always chose cannabis over opioids because I believe opioids can be really addicting and lead to some bad things," he said. 

Reed, who concludes his career with 3,602 yards and 28 touchdowns on 355 catches, will never know how prolific a career he could have enjoyed had it not been for concussions and other serious injuries. But he hopes to be a part of a solution that can help spare future generations from the pain he endured.

Follow USA TODAY Sports’ Mike Jones on Twitter @ByMikeJones and listen to the Football Jones podcast on iTunes.