31 Years Old Is Too Old

In the spring of 2003, I was on a trip to Tamp, FL to scout players at the annual NFL Europe training camp. While I was there, I had a visit with a player we had just signed to the Arizona Cardinals by the name of Dexter Jackson. Yes, the former Super Bowl XXXVII MVP Dexter Jackson. We met at the now defunct and bankrupt Bennigan’s Grill and Tavern. I used to love their Bacon, Mushroom, and Swiss Cheeseburger when I was a kid. Mmmmm, brings back memories! Anyway, I met with Dexter just after we had signed him as an Unrestricted Free-Agent from the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. It was one of the big name signings of the off-season. Dexter signed a five-year, $14 million contract and only played one year for the Arizona Cardinals; ironically returning to the Buccaneers the following season.  Dexter was eventually released by the Buccaneers and signed with the Cincinnati Bengals where he played for three seasons.

Since March 6, 2009, Dexter has been unemployed in the NFL and is now 31 years old. His birthday is Tuesday July 28. Happy early birthday, Dexter! He is old by NFL standards.  While he feels as though he can still play the game he loves at a high level, the ugly truth is that it is not likely he will return to the game before training camps officially begin…TOMORROW!  The best chances a player such as Dexter have at obtaining a spot on the roster lie with a player getting hurt after Week One of the NFL regular season, so a team is not on the hook for guaranteeing any termination pay to a player who is older and more susceptible to injury later in his career. 

I think Dexter was one heck of a player at the height of his career, but the reality is he is closer to never playing football in the NFL than he is to “ever” playing football again in the NFL; a harsh reality that hits 99% of players harder than they had ever imagined. The transition he is going through is very tough and indescribable, but there is the rest of life to live. He says he has investment properties and states, “We’re doing really well.” I only hope he has mentally prepared himself for the after-life not playing again when the phone calls truly stop. 

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