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Chris Borland's retirement will be hot topic at owners' meetings

San Francisco 49ers inside linebacker Chris Borland (50)

San Francisco 49ers inside linebacker Chris Borland (50) celebrates after intercepting a pass during the first half of a game against the Giants, Sunday, Nov. 16, 2014, in East Rutherford, N.J. Credit: AP / Bill Kostroun

Chris Borland's sudden retirement from football earlier this week is on the minds of all NFL owners as they prepare to gather for the Annual Meeting in Phoenix beginning on Monday.

"That's certainly something that we all pay attention to," Giants president and CEO John Mara said. "Believe me, that's something that everybody in the league took notice of."

Mara, a member of the NFL's Competition Committee as well as the Health and Safety Committee, said the focus of those two groups for the last several years has been on trying to reduce concussions and head trauma. Borland retired after one season in the league with the 49ers, saying he wanted to avoid the risk of head injuries and complications from them later in life.

"We've been successful the last couple of years, the concussion rate has gone way down, but we're nowhere near where we want to be," Mara said. "We have to keep working at it."

Mara said rule changes in recent years have addressed the issue, and the players have responded to them.

"I think we've made dramatic strides in that area, but again, we're not where we want to be yet," he said. "There were less helmet-to-helmet hits and less fines for that last year. The rate went dramatically down, so players are getting the message that we need to take the head out of the game. There was an initial outcry when those rules went into effect that you're making it so tough to play defense. But these guys are such great athletes, they adapt after a while and they are doing that. We need to keep pushing the envelope further."

Of course, Borland found one way to avoid concussions in the NFL. And while he is just one player, it has the league concerned.

"Whether it's a trend or not I don't know," Mara said. "I don't think it is, but that remains to be seen."


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