San Francisco 49ers

Respect for Chris Borland at Stanford pro day, but no change in players’ resolve

San Francisco 49ers outside linebacker Chase Thomas (48) and linebacker Shayne Skov (44) on the sideline during a preseason game in 2014.
San Francisco 49ers outside linebacker Chase Thomas (48) and linebacker Shayne Skov (44) on the sideline during a preseason game in 2014. AP

Chris Borland may have stunned the football world by leaving the game at age 24, but his announcement and his concerns about head trauma didn’t dilute the resolve of Stanford players eager to land an NFL roster spot this spring.

“I love the game; I’m not going to ever stop playing unless I have to,” defensive end Henry Anderson said. “So, yeah, (Borland) doesn’t affect anything I’m doing.”

“Right now, I’m full-go with football and trying to make a career out of it,” said A.J. Tarpley, who plays inside linebacker, the same position as Borland.

“I love this game, and it’s not worth dying for,” said safety Jordan Richards, who played at Folsom High School. “But if I’m healthy, I feel like I’m good to go. I’m going to play it for as long as I can.”

Those players worked out for scouts and coaches from all 32 teams – including big contingents from the 49ers and Raiders – on Thursday. And while Borland’s decision continued to be a national story, it has not been a raging topic among young players getting ready for next month’s draft, not even athletic eggheads at a university that presumably affords them excellent employment opportunities away from the gridiron.

The Stanford prospects said they respect Borland’s move and concede football can be a dangerous sport. But they said those who play it are aware of the risks and must balance them in their own minds.

Said Richards: “It’s just knowing your body, and if football is going to be your job, you’ve got to be the director of that ship.”

Borland told “CBS This Morning” on Thursday that a routine play during 49ers training camp last summer set in motion his decision to retire. He said he didn’t report the hit to the team’s medical staff but figures he suffered a concussion.

“I thought so,” he said. “There’s a lot of vernacular in football about getting your bell rung or getting dinged, and it was one of those instances. The hit itself wasn’t cataclysmic. It just kind of changed the way I approached the game.”

Borland said it was the routine nature of the play that worried him. He asked himself how many times that type of collision might occur over the course of his career and subsequently started to research the matter.

One of the things that concerned him, he said, was that he didn’t find a lot of answers.

“I don’t think even the top neurologists truly understand the risks, the connections,” Borland said. “That’s what I found out in my research, and it’s just too many unknowns for me and there were too many tragedies for me to be comfortable playing.”

Chase Thomas, a former Stanford linebacker who plays for the 49ers, said he never heard Borland express concern about his health, and he said Borland, who led the team in tackles last season, didn’t play like someone who was scared.

“I definitely didn’t see it coming,” he said. “I never heard him talk about it at all. Obviously he was thinking about it but didn’t really let on to anyone else that it was going on in his head.”

Thomas, 25, said he’s not had a concussion and, at this stage in his career, he isn’t concerned.

“I’ve never really thought about it,” he said. “Maybe if I played 10 years it would cross my mind at some point. But being a first-, second-year guy, it doesn’t really come into play for me. But also, as (Borland) said, if you wait for the symptoms to occur, it might be too late. So that’s something you also have to think about.”

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