Jaguars Lineman Retires Due to Life-Threatening Heart Condition


Jennifer Stewart/Getty Images Rodney Gunter looks to tackle Seattle Seahawks QB Russell Wilson during a game in 2019.

Today Jacksonville Jaguars defensive lineman Rodney Gunter announced that he is retiring from the NFL due to a heart condition that could cause sudden death, should he continue to play professional football.

“After seeing several heart specialists I was told if I continue to play ball with my condition, I could possibly rupture or tear my aorta, which is enlarged. This can cause sudden death or a severe stroke,” he related in a statement published on the team’s web site.

There was a bit of good news as part of Gunter’s announcement.

“There is a 50/50 chance that surgery will fix my current health condition,” he added. “But at the moment, I do not meet the criteria to undergo the operation. Those who qualify must have 5.5+ cm enlarged aorta, while mine measures 5.0 cm. At this time, I cannot play or have the surgery so I must wait. So at this moment, the best choice for me and my family is to walk away from this game.

I appreciate the Jaguars for giving me an opportunity, and I’m thankful for everyone who has believed in me along the way,” he concluded.

Rodney Gunter’s NFL Career

Gunter, 28, entered the NFL as a fourth-round draft pick of the Arizona Cardinals, selected in the fourth round—116th overall—out of Delaware State. He played in 77 games with 38 starts during his five seasons in Arizona, contributing 126 total tackles, including 86 solo tackles and 26 tackles for loss. He also added 11 sacks, two forced fumbles and one fumble recovery.

It’s clear, though, that he was just coming into his own in the past few seasons, which encouraged the Jaguars to sign him to a three-year $18 million contract as an unrestricted free agent this past March, with $11.15 million guaranteed.

On August 8 the Jaguars placed Gunter on the team’s non-football illness list. He played on a one-year contract worth $1.75 million last season.

Defensive Tackle Now an Urgent Need for Jaguars

Gunter was part of an offseason overhaul of the club’s defensive line, and the Jaguars were hoping that at 6-5 and 305 pounds, he could give the team a stoutness that they lacked on the interior for most of last year. Now third-round draft pick DaVon Hamilton, a 6-4 320 pound defensive tackle from Ohio State University, may be counted on earlier than expected.

That’s because journeyman defensive tackle Al Woods voluntarily opted out of the 2020 season due to coronavirus concerns. Woods has played for five different NFL teams over the course of his ten-year career, including the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Pittsburgh Steelers, Tennessee Titans, Indianapolis Colts and Seattle Seahawks.

As for Hamilton, 23, he rose on draft boards after he tested well at the NFL Combine in February. In fact, his 33 reps of 250 pounds were the most of any defensive lineman at this year’s Combine. As a fifth-year senior at Ohio State he recorded 28 tackles, including 10.5 for loss, with six sacks.

READ NEXT: Remarkable Statistic Makes Case for Steelers, Jets, Cardinals HOF Candidate

READ NEXT: Cardinals’ Kliff Kingsbury Makes Admission About Viral Draft Day Photo