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The last nine months have been a nightmare for Doug Baldwin.
- He missed nearly all of the 2018 preseason recovering from a knee condition requiring "special treatments."
- He suffered a Grade 2 MCL sprain in Week 1 and missed Week 2 and 3.
- He was limited in practice with knee pain through Week 9.
- He was listed on the injury report with hip and groin ailments from Week 10 through Week 16 and was unable to play in Week 14.
- He was listed on the injury report with a shoulder condition in Week 17.
- He underwent knee and shoulder surgeries before the end of February.
- He underwent core muscle surgery (a.k.a. sports hernia repair) in early April.
In March, Baldwin referred to his 2018 season as "absolute hell" and told reporters he was "on the downside of his career." But there seemed little immediate concern for Baldwin's playing career at the time. In late February, Pete Carroll told reporters Baldwin was rehabbing from shoulder and knee surgery and should be fine for the season. Baldwin told reporters his knee was pain-free by November and returned to put up 11 catches for 203 yards and three touchdowns in the two weeks following his Week 14 absence.
Now, multiple national media writers are reporting Baldwin may choose to retire rather than return to play in 2019.
What do we know about Baldwin's procedures? Is retirement a serious consideration?
Though specifics on Baldwin's preseason knee condition were never reported, all indications suggest the issue was degenerative. While it's unclear how complex the knee and shoulder surgeries may have been, it's unlikely both procedures were extensive. More involved shoulder surgeries require immobilizing the shoulder in a sling for many weeks. More extensive knee procedures may require crutches. The two surgeries would not be scheduled so closely together if either required immobilization.
Further, Baldwin would not have been cleared to have a third surgery on his abdomen if either surgery involved a long period of immobilization. Most core muscle surgeries require between 4 and 8 weeks of recovery time. According to Carroll, Baldwin was given a similar rehab timetable.
Of the three conditions, the knee ailment is likely the most limiting over the long term. But none of these surgeries appear career-ending -- by themselves or in combination. And there are no indications Baldwin suffered a setback while rehabbing any of the surgeries.
Unfortunately, every report regarding Baldwin since late March has been ominous. The notoriously optimistic Carroll said the third surgery was a "big burden". Mike Garafolo was told the injuries had "really taken a toll" on Baldwin.
Four weeks into his core muscle rehab, Adam Schefter reported Baldwin may have played his last down. In Schefter's story, general manager John Schneider is quoted as saying, "There's stuff with the league office, with the union that we need to work through." Shortly after, Mike Garafolo reported possible salary cap issues should Baldwin announce his retirement soon.
Though Baldwin has yet to announce his retirement, none of these reports sound like manufactured drama. Carroll and Schneider are openly discussing the probability of retirement in the media and the team drafted wide receiver talent in the second and fourth rounds last week.
Expect a retirement announcement before training camp. If Baldwin chooses to return, he'll be 31 years old and at high risk of compensatory injuries after three offseason surgeries. Plan accordingly. Should Baldwin elect to continue his career, I'll revisit his surgical procedures and expected rehab in greater detail.