Staff Photo: Brendan Sullivan Jonathan Stinchcomb a full-time father and husband gives his son Mason, 2, a boost with a push on a surfboard while playing in their Lawrenceville backyard on Tuesday.
For eight years, Jon Stinchcomb's biggest concern as an NFL player was preparing each week for a long, grueling football season.
After retiring from the New Orleans Saints last August, Stinchcomb's priorities have changed.
He's no longer worried about preparing to block a speed rusher. Instead he's trying to figure out what fun activity he's going to take his kids to that week.
"It's completely different, in the fall especially," Stinchcomb said. "To slow down and your biggest decision is are you going to the zoo, the park, the aquarium? Should we go to the swimming pool? It's definitely an adjustment, but it's a chapter of my life I'm really enjoying."
After retiring last year, Stinchcomb was presented with some career opportunities. With his son, Mason, 2, growing up so quickly, he viewed his retirement from the NFL as a chance to spend more time with his son. His wife, Ali, gave birth to their daughter, Emily Gray, this summer, making Stinchcomb a full-time family man. He recently moved his family to Lawrenceville and has settled into the Archer school district.
"I see it as real blessing. Not many people are able to take time off in the middle of their life to stay at home and raise your own kids," Stinchcomb said. "A lot of days are much more challenging than any practice I've ever been to. It's also at the end of the day I get to know I spent all day with my family and it's invaluable."
Stinchcomb, 32, grew up in Lilburn, where he was a standout offensive lineman for Parkview. He was a member of Parkview's first football state championship team in 1997, but missed the playoffs due to a knee injury. Stinchcomb followed his older brother Matt and signed with Georgia, where he was an All-American.
Stinchcomb was a second-round pick by the New Orleans Saints in 2003. After missing the 2005 season with a knee injury, Stinchcomb took over the starting right tackle position and started 80 consecutive games over five seasons. He was named the team's Man of the Year in 2008 and was a Pro Bowl selection on the Saints' 2009 Super Bowl champion team.
That team came under scrutiny earlier this year when the NFL investigated Saints defensive players allegedly posted bounties for in-game performance.
Saints head coach Sean Payton and former defensive coordinator Gregg Williams were suspended for the 2012 season by the NFL. General manager Mickey Loomis was suspended for the first eight games of the year. Four players were also suspended for all or parts of the upcoming season.
It's a situation that quickly agitates Stinchcomb as he disputes it.
"Two of the three years they are talking about, I was on that team," Stinchcomb said. "Never once did I feel like any of my teammates were purposefully targeting an individual player for injury. If that were ever to be the case, then I would have the biggest complaint of anybody. There's no place in the game for that."
Stinchcomb was plagued by another knee injury during the 2010 season. He had surgery in the offseason, but wasn't the same. The Saints released Stinchcomb after the first preseason game in August last year and he retired shortly after that.
"I think the writing was on the wall in training camp. The coaches saw it and I knew it. It was time," Stinchcomb said. "The game has been great to me. I've been grateful for everything it's brought. The risk far outweighed the reward at that point."
The concern for the health and safety of NFL players has risen in recent years. More than 2,000 former NFL players filed a concussion-related lawsuit against the NFL in June. It's a lawsuit Stinchcomb was asked to join, but declined.
"I've been contacted a couple of different times about the concussion claims. I never felt like I had any major concussions, so I wasn't going to join that lawsuit," Stinchcomb said. "Health and safety is a major concern. There are some huge, athletic humans flying around on that football field. I think we all understand there's that certain level of risk we all take. We also like to be fully informed about those risks."
Since his retirement, Stinchcomb has far fewer aches and pains in his body. His knees feel a lot better and he's dropped more than 40 pounds from his playing weight.
"Chasing around my 2-year-old is helping me drop my pounds," he joked.
It's a lot simpler life for the former NFL player. He has no immediate plans to return to the working world. He's just enjoying being around his wife and kids every day.
"I'm not going to be retired for life at the age of 32," Stinchcomb said. "But right now, this is where I felt like I need to be and I enjoy it."