Jaguars defensive lineman Rodney Gunter stepping away from football

SANTA CLARA, CALIFORNIA - NOVEMBER 17: Rodney Gunter #95 of the Arizona Cardinals runs onto the field before the start of the NFL game against the San Francisco 49ers at Levi's Stadium on November 17, 2019 in Santa Clara, California. (Photo by Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images) (2019 Thearon W. Henderson)

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – Another of the Jaguars’ free-agent additions will not play this year for the team. Defensive lineman Rodney Gunter is stepping away from the game because of a heart condition.

Gunter was expected to push for a starting job on the Jaguars defensive front, but now, that position will be left to Taven Bryan.

Gunter released a statement saying:

"These last three weeks have been a hard pill to swallow. Seeing my dreams vanish right in front of me has been extremely difficult.

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.

There is a 50/50 chance that surgery will fix my current health condition. 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. Thank you!”

Speaking about Gunter at the NFL’s scouting combine in April, general manager Dave Caldwell said, “Gunter is going to be a guy that can help us. These big guys that we have are going to be able to create push.”

Gunter played the first five years of his NFL career with the Arizona Cardinals, missing only three games in five seasons, all of them in 2019.

Gunter follows free agent signees Al Woods and Rashaan Melvin who opted out of the season because of COVID-19. Special team standout Lerentee McCray also opted out of the season.

The Jaguars are looking to replace the departed Calais Campbell and Marcell Dareus on the defensive line. Defensive end Yannick Ngakoue has yet to sign the franchise tender and is not in camp.

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