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Vikings LB Cameron Smith retires from NFL after playing one game following open-heart surgery

18August 2021

Vikings linebacker Cameron Smith announced his retirement on Wednesday after playing in one preseason game following his return from open-heart surgery.

Smith, 24, missed all of last season due to the surgery last August. He started last Saturday’s 33-6 home loss to Denver, but was lost for the game early the second quarter due to a concussion.

“For the past 18 years, football has been such a tremendous part of my life,” Smith wrote on Instagram. “It has provided countless friendships, incredible memories, and invaluable lessons that will last a lifetime. When I had open-heart surgery last year, I grappled a lot with what I had been asking my body to do in order to play this great game.

“Ultimately, I’ve decided that I’ve been asking for it to do too much. After careful consideration and thorough discussion with my friends and family, I have made the difficult decision to retire from the NFL”

Smith, a fifth-round pick in 2019 out of USC who played in five games as a rookie, did not specifically reference his concussion in his retirement announcement.

“I know this transition isn’t going to be easy, but I am excited to tackle the next chapter of my life with the same passion that I did football,” Smith wrote about his retirement. “I am grateful for, and will forever cherish the many opportunities that I have been given to me through football.”

Smith announced last August that he learned he was born with a heart defect that would need to be fixed. Later that month, he had surgery to repair a bicuspid aortic valve and missed the entire season.

Smith returned to the Vikings last May for spring drills and had been battling Nick Vigil to start at the third linebacker spot. Vigil, expected to be the starter, sat out against the Broncos and Smith got a start.

Smith was in for 18 plays on defense but was lost for the game with 14:07 left in the second quarter, when he suffered a concussion while blocking Denver fullback Adam Prentice. Asked after the game if Smith’s injury was serious, Vikings coach Mike Zimmer said, “I don’t know. All concussions are pretty serious.”

Smith’s retirement leaves the Vikings even thinner at linebacker. Starter Anthony Barr has not practiced since Aug. 5 due to an undisclosed injury. And Zimmer has been displeased with the play lately of reserve linebackers.

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