Cal lineman Michael Saffell announces medical retirement

photo of Mike Saffell
Stephanie Li/File
Cal lineman Michael Saffell announced his retirement, due to injury.

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After four seasons at Cal, lineman Michael Saffell announced his medical retirement from football. Saffell, who started in 23 of the 28 games he played in, expected to use his fifth year of eligibility — granted by the NCAA due to the COVID-19 pandemic — in the 2021 season. However, nearly eight months after announcing his return, the veteran lineman made the decision to retire in order to focus on his health.  

Saffell, who has struggled with injuries throughout his entire career, sought treatment internationally in hopes of rehabilitating his latest one. 

“I’m not a guy that takes no as an easy answer,” he said in a press conference Friday. “I went everywhere to try to figure this out … I went international to find doctors to talk to. Once I got the people that I trusted and everyone was giving me the right information on it, (I knew) it was the right decision, and my teammates supported it.” 

There’s no doubt Saffell’s absence will have a sizable impact on Cal’s offensive line. Saffell was named to the All-Pac-12 second team in his junior and senior years, and he served as team captain during the shortened 2020 season. 

However, Saffell remains optimistic about his teammates’ abilities. 

“We got some good recruiting classes coming through on the O-line,” Saffell said. “That’s what made this decision so much easier. I’m sure they’ll miss the leadership and the playing from me, but there will be no shortage or drop-off on talent.” 

A Pac-12 Scholar-Athlete of the Year, Saffell said he values the lessons he learned at Cal, both on the field and in the classroom. 

“That’s the allure of coming here,” he said. “If you want to be the best, and you want to have Division I sports and play for a program that’s on the rise, then Cal is the place to come to. That’s what I got to be a part of: I got to build the foundations in football, and I got to take advantage of the school.” 

While Saffell will leave a large hole in the Bears’ roster, it’s clear that his decision to leave the team was made with confidence. 

Aiko Sudijono is the deputy sports editor. Contact her at [email protected].