Why Jonathan Martin retired

Offensive tackle Jonathan Martin retired before the 2015 season, but Martin’s departure from football has nothing do with his infamous bullying scandal or his sometimes inconsistent play. Instead it was a back injury suffered prior to training camp that forced him out of football. “It just never got better,” said Martin’s agent, Kenny Zuckerman. “He was just hoping it would just get better and better every day, and it just didn’t.” Doctors said that Martin had to rest his back for four to eight weeks without engaging in physical activity — something that would’ve put him well behind for this NFL season — and then he was a candidate for spinal fusion surgery, a risky operation that could have sidelined him a year. According to Zuckerman, the injury left Martin very discouraged, something that went contrary to some media depictions that labeled him as a player who lacked passion for football. He agonized over what to do about his playing career before deciding to retire just shy of his 26th birthday. “He went through a tough time, but he loved playing,” Zuckerman said. “(The injury) consumed his mind 24 hours a day.” After the Dolphins’ turmoil in 2013, few would have guessed that the NFL stay of Richie Incognito, the player who tormented Martin, would outlast Martin’s. Martin, who was drafted in the second round of the 2012 NFL Draft, was just 23 years old at the time of the scandal and played one of the most important positions in football — offensive tackle. He entered the NFL as a major prospect, having protected quarterback Andrew Luck while at Stanford. Incognito was a 30-year-old guard, who had been dismissed from both Nebraska and Oregon during college, and was being kicked to the curb by his third NFL team. Surprisingly, Incognito is now slated as the starting left guard for the Bills while Martin has moved on with his career. Zuckerman said there is “zero percent” chance that Martin plays again — regardless of whether the 25-year-old’s health unexpectedly improves. Instead Martin, whose mother is a corporate lawyer for Toyota, likely will go to law school. “If it was a guy who didn’t have that plan, I could see him sitting a year (and playing again),” Zuckerman said. “He’s a very bright guy … He’s ready to move on to the next part of life.” After attending Harvard-Westlake (Calif.) High, a school known for its lofty academics, Martin, who majored in ancient Greek and Roman classics at Stanford, could have been the first ever fourth generation African-American at Harvard. He was heavily recruited by the Ivy League school attended by his mother, father, grandfather and great-grandfather. Instead Martin went to Stanford, where he became a second-team All-American in 2011, before starting 32 games during his three years in the NFL. After leaving the Dolphins, the 6-5, 315-pound Martin signed with the 49ers and played for his college head coach, Jim Harbaugh. Martin started nine games at right tackle but often struggled while playing on an injury-plagued offensive line and was cut after the season. In the ensuing offseason, he was claimed off of waivers by the Panthers, a team with a porous offensive line. Martin, who was mostly playing behind Michael Oher of The Blind Side fame on the left side of the Panthers’ line during offseason practices, was reportedly scheduled to make $1.042 million this season. Following his retirement from the Panthers, Martin’s camp maintains that he will not be negatively linked to the bullying scandal but instead serve as a positive example of resilience. “He is a role model for kids that are going through things like he went through,” Zuckerman said. Follow Jeff on Twitter @JFedotin

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