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Eugene Monroe announces retirement at age 29

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The Ravens may have released Monroe in June due to his advocacy for medical marijuana.

Mitch Stringer-USA TODAY Sports

Eugene Monroe has surprisingly elected to retire a month after the Baltimore Ravens severed ties with the veteran left tackle in mid-June, according to ESPN's Josina Anderson.

"I'm only 29 and I still have the physical ability to play at a very high level, so I know that my decision to retire may be puzzling to some," Monroe wrote in a post on The Players' Tribune on Thursday. "But I am thinking of my family first right now — and my health and my future.

"The last 18 years have been full of traumatic injuries to both my head and my body. I'm not complaining, just stating a fact. Has the damage to my brain already been done? Do I have CTE? I hope I don't, but over 90% of the brains of former NFL players that have been examined showed signs of the disease. I am terrified."

The Ravens released Monroe June 15 after they were unable to trade him. On the surface, it was a curious decision for Baltimore to cut ties with Monroe less than two months before training camp, but there may have been some extenuating circumstances at play.

Monroe emerged as one of the loudest medical marijuana advocates in the NFL. He campaigned for the NFL to lift marijuana off its list of banned substances, often noting its advantages over opioids, which are commonly prescribed to injured players throughout the league.

"The NFL and its athletes are not immune to the opioid epidemic in our country. Indeed, retired NFL players are more likely to misuse opioids than the general population because of unavoidable and recurring chronic pain," Monroe wrote in an essay published on The Players' Tribune in May. "There has to be a better way. There is a better way."

Though Monroe won't say for sure whether his outspokenness on medical marijuana led to his release, he's willing to raise the question. Earlier this offseason, Ravens head coach John Harbaugh said Monroe's embrace of weed "doesn't speak for the organization."

Following Monroe's release, Harbaugh said Monroe's medical marijuana perspectives did not play a role in the team's decision to move on from him.

"Football circumstances changed," Harbaugh said. "One hundred percent, football circumstances."

There are a number of on-field reasons that explain why the Ravens released Monroe. He's missed 15 games over the last two seasons and they drafted left tackle Ronnie Stanley with the No. 6 overall pick in this year's draft. Since Monroe carried an $8 million cap hit, it made sense for the Ravens to release him if they wanted to clear space. But still, the timing remains strange.

The Jacksonville Jaguars drafted Monroe with the No. 8 pick in the 2009 NFL Draft before trading him to Baltimore in 2013. The Ravens signed Monroe to a five-year, $37.5 million extension with $17.5 million guaranteed the following year.

The Giants were reportedly interested in acquiring Monroe from the Ravens via trade, but the two teams were unable to come to an agreement. The Giants were expected to be a potential landing spot for the offensive tackle as head coach Ben McAdoo said he has no issue with players being vocal about their opinions and wasn't concerned with Monroe's advocacy.

"I think everyone's entitled to their own opinion," McAdoo told Ralph Vacciano of the New York Daily News. "Myself, I haven't done any research. I don't have a great answer for you there. That's probably more of a political question, something that I'm not necessarily willing to jump into at this point — or ever. But every player, every coach, every person has their own opinion and is entitled to it."

Instead, Monroe has elected to end his NFL career after just seven seasons.