Head Coach John Harbaugh got a call from Ravens offensive lineman John Urschel at 6:22 a.m.* *Thursday, just more than two hours before the team's first training camp practice.
Harbaugh remembers the exact time because he looked down at his computer clock. This was a unique call.
Urschel told Harbaugh that he was retiring from football and that it was something that had been on his mind for quite a while throughout the offseason. Urschel's just 26 years old and was entering his fourth season.
"It was out of the blue," Harbaugh said. "He was working on his snaps all summer. He was doing a great job. It was definitely a lightning bolt.
"We respect John tremendously and probably the rest of it is for him to answer – whatever the details of that decision are."
Urschel asked for privacy at this time, but released a statement citing reasons for stepping away, including his love of studying at Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) and desire to spend time with his fiancé and* *expected first child.
Urschel has long struck a life balance between academics and football. They were two loves in his life, and he now has a third and fourth on the way.
But there was immediate speculation that Urschel's decision was also about the risks of playing football. His call to Harbaugh came two days after a new study on brain injuries in football players was released.
In 2015, Urschel wrote that he envied Chris Borland, who walked away from the game at 24 years old due to concerns about long-term brain injury.
Urschel then wrote, "playing a hitting position in the NFL can't possibly help* *your long-term mental health. However, it's also true that how bad such a pursuit is for you is something that, I believe, no one really knows for sure right now."
For that reason, reporters Thursday wanted to know what Urschel's teammates thought of his decision to walk away.
"It's unfortunate," veteran safety and team leader Eric Weddle said. "Obviously [Urschel] is a great dude, competitor, teammate. It's unfortunate, but that's his decision. … We wish him the best and know he's going to do great things in his future. But, it's not with us. We have to move forward."
Weddle was asked whether he pays attention to studies on the relationship between football and brain injuries.
"I think it's a personal preference to look into it or not look into it," Weddle said.
"I've been playing tackle football since first grade and I'm as sharp as ever. I don't really pay attention to it. I'm just trying to do my job and do the best that I can. I'll worry about that stuff later down the line.
"I think if you take care of yourself as you get older – you're healthy, you exercise, challenge your mind and not just sit back and do nothing – that has more of an effect than playing football."
Running back Danny Woodhead said he didn't really know what to think, whether to be surprised or not. He said he's not paying much attention to other players that retire early.
"Honestly, Urschel is a great dude," Woodhead said. "That was his decision and obviously, we support him. That's what's best for him."