It’s always bittersweet when a longtime athlete retires from competition. It’s even more sobering when they are forced into doing so to protect their health.
Buffalo Bills center Eric Wood announced his retirement from football today following a physical that revealed a neck injury that could have potentially put his health at risk had he continued to play.
“I was diagnosed with a neck injury as part of my season-ending physical with the Bills,” said Wood in a team-issued statement. “After consultation with Dr. [Andrew] Cappuccino and other physicians, I was informed that I was no longer cleared to play football, even with surgery or further treatment. I appreciate and thank everyone for their thoughts, concerns and prayers, and I will shed more light on the situation at a press conference on Monday at the team facility.”
The news was first reported by the fantasy sports outlet of Scout.com. Wood had played for nine seasons in the NFL, all of them with the Bills. He was the longest-tenured member of the team this season, serving as their team captain and playing every snap during the regular season. He appeared in his first career playoff game just a few weeks ago.
Wood made the Pro Bowl in 2015 and was generally seen as a dependable blocker in league circles. While he had struggled with injuries in the past, they were all related to his leg. Adam Schefter of ESPN reported that “wear and tear” was a factor in the injury, and given Dr. Cappuccino’s expertise (he treated former Bills tight end Kevin Everett after his scary spine injury in 2007), whatever issue Wood has with his neck must be serious.
Still, it’s saddening to see a career end this way. Wood, who will turn 32 in March, had signed an extension with the Bills before this season and had planned to play with the team for as long as he could. Hopefully, a plan will be in place to keep him involved with the team in some capacity.