The Bengals nor Browns will have to face off with Ravens offensive lineman John Urschel twice this season, or even once, as he retired Thursday in the wake of recent reports of CTE in the brains of deceased football players.
ESPN reporter Jamison Hensley wrote that Baltimore head coach John Harbaugh was caught off guard Thursday when Urschel -- who was expected to compete for the starting center position -- called him before practice to let him know that he is going to hang up his cleats.
"That was out of the blue," Harbaugh said. "He had been working hard. He was working on his snaps all summer. He was doing a great job . . . He said he's going to retire from football [and] that was something that's been on his mind for quite a while and throughout the offseason."
A team source told ESPN that Urschel’s decision was prompted by a medical study that said that chronic traumatic encephalopathy, known as CTE, was found in nearly 99 percent of deceased NFL players' brains that were donated to scientific research.
Urschel has options.
He has bachelor's and master's degrees in mathematics from Penn State and is pursuing a Ph.D. in mathematics from MIT, focusing on spectral graph theory, numerical linear algebra and machine learning.
In August 2015, Urschel suffered a concussion and was knocked unconscious.
"I think it hurt my ability to think well mathematically," he said. "It took me about three weeks before I was football-ready. It took me a little bit longer before my high-level visualizations ability came back."
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