NFL player retires with no drama, felonies

Quick, before the next morbidly depressing NFL story crosses the wire — my bet’s on a Vicodin-addicted, concussion-addled, bullying-scarred placekicker shooting up a PetSmart — let’s tip our cap to Jordan Gross.

The Carolina Panthers’ longtime starting left tackle — he had anchored the team’s offensive line since his rookie year in 2003 — announced his retirement on Tuesday. Because he didn’t commit any double murders, or even try to cover one up, the world merely yawned.

It’s too bad, of course. Gross was an accomplished player and is, by all accounts, a really good dude. After making his way from little Fruitland, Idaho to the University of Utah to Charlotte and the NFL, he almost instantly became the Panthers’ best lineman. Soon he was a team captain and an invaluable steadying influence on the team. He hosts a podcast — “This Is Gross” — on the team website and is, by the standard of most Pro Bowl-caliber NFL players, remarkably self-effacing. His Twitter profile, in part, reads, “Just a Dad trying to raise some decent kids.”

I don’t have any special connection to Gross or affection for the Panthers, but during an age when coverage of Aaron Hernandez’s savagery can all but break the internet, a little piece of me dies inside when an invaluable show-up-to-work-and-get-shit-done guy takes his leave and hardly anyone looks up.

I’ll stop short of breaking out into the Stones’ “Salt of the Earth,” but you get the idea. Ah, well. Happy trails, big fella.

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