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Andrew Luck is a hero for quitting, so why was Vontae Davis a villain?

The Internet needs to check itself

Denver Broncos v Buffalo Bills

So I follow Vontae Davis on Instagram. You know, the guy who quit during halftime of a Buffalo Bills game in 2018.

But I’ve always hadthe impression that Davis is a genuinely happy person post-football. He goes on all kinds of fun trips with his wife and they seem to have a real, non-Instafake marriage. Davis strikes me as a guy who has never looked back for a second. He made a decision for him and I’m happy for the guy.

To put it mildly, many Bills fans did not appreciate this decision at the time, quite understandably.

Memes, jokes, and hatred all formed a steady stream coming directly Davis’s way. If he made a post on social media, in response came hundreds of vitriolic comments from angry fans reminding him that he quit on his team during a game.

And yet here we are one year later with a similar situation.

On Saturday night, news leaked that Indianapolis Colts franchise quarterback Andrew Luck told the team that he was retiring. Luck hit the podium shortly after the Colts’ preseason game against the Chicago Bears and spoke about how football had mentally and physically drained him.

In his conference, Luck said he felt “stuck” in a relentlessly repeating cycle of injury, pain, rehab, repeat. He said he hasn’t “been able to live the life I want to live.”

It had “taken the joy out of the game, and after 2016, when I played in pain and was unable to regularly practice, I made a vow to myself that I would not go down that path again,” said Luck.

Save for a few haters who were quickly silenced—Doug Gottlieb chief among them—the media and fans have largely sided with the well-liked quarterback, even decrying him as a courageous hero for listening to his body.

But where was all of this when Vontae Davis’s body told him that it was time to stop? Why was Davis vilified by national media and hated by Bills fans? Why is Luck a modern hero making a personal decision, but Davis was an instant enemy, a selfish player who put himself before his teammates?

Like the steady stream of hatred that followed Davis, the Internet needed to find someone at fault for Luck’s decision. The conclusion: now it’s seemingly on former Colts general manager Ryan Grigson and his porous offensive lines that stood in front of Luck. They gave up 41 sacks in 2016, the year before Luck missed an entire season rehabbing from shoulder surgery. Jacoby Brissett was then sacked 52 times in his place that year. Luck was sacked an average of 29 times per season over his six years.

Davis, on the other hand, made a career on covering receivers and tackling opposing players in a position far less protected than the modern quarterback. Faltering health was undoubtedly a main theme of Davis’s career, particularly when the Colts released him just days after he needed season-ending groin surgery in 2017. Davis commented that he felt disrespected. “I feel like I was demoted because of my health instead of my ability.”

Less than a year later he’d literally walk away from the game during a Bills blowout loss to the Los Angeles Chargers.

WGR’s Jeremy White chimed in Monday morning on the Howard and Jeremy Show:

“[Davis] was a joke. He was roundly mocked for quitting on a team at halftime. Called out in every possible way for not being a good teammate. What did he do? The same thing that Andrew Luck did, he just did it at a different time. He just decided ‘I’m not in this anymore. I’m out.’”

“You might say, ‘Well that’s the middle of a game’. I guess what I’m getting to is... sometimes we create sides when almost everybody is in the same boat”

For White, the comparison between Luck and Davis points at the question of whether fans and media treat players like nothing more than meat.

“You don’t like a player until he’s on your team, and then if he leaves on the wrong terms sometimes you burn his jersey,” said White. “There’s so much of this that is baked into this sports fan cake. And maybe a little bit too much it ends up being ‘well now it’s time to scold everyone,’”

Where does this conversation go after the Luck saga? Should fans care more about the person behind the helmet? Should teams care more about a player? Will Luck’s retirement change our view of what players are expected to do (and not expected to do)?

As the White continued taking calls, fan opinion seemed near unanimous. They reminded him “how much NFL players put their bodies on the line.” Suddenly it seemed as though fans across the country understood how much “being hurt messes their routine up.”

“It’s brutal on you. It’s really brutal,” said caller “Scott,” offering profound wisdom that seemed to be nowhere when Davis retired.

The other side of this debate is that “players know what they’re signing up for.” They sign the contract and take the check. And a choice like Luck’s can arguably have a profound effect on the collective confidence of an entire city’s fan base.

Moreover, many argue that the cases of Luck and Davis shouldn’t be misunderstood. Luck did not literally leave his teammates during a game like Davis did. Luck gave more heads-up time before retiring than Davis did. These are all fair points.

What can’t be debated is that both players had a body clock that ultimately struck midnight. The notice came at a rather inopportune time for fans and their expectations, particularly in Davis’s case, and he got crucified over it.

Andrew Luck said in his conference that he “chose himself” in deciding to step away from the game. Vontae Davis did the same, only now the masses believe it’s okay that players decide this.

How come it took so long?