Doug Brown’s retirement partially motivated by Richard Harris’ death

Doug Brown's decision to make his retirement from the CFL official Wednesday was no surprise, but one of the reasons he gave was quite interesting. During his retirement press conference, Brown said the moment that convinced him it was time to hang up his cleats came with the tragic death of Bombers' defensive line coach Richard Harris from a heart attack in July: "When Richard Harris passed, I knew I would never play pro ball again after the season." It's one further illustration of the impact Harris had on so many, and it further demonstrates how tough the 2011 season was for many Bombers like Brown who were close to Harris.

Of course, this isn't the first time Brown has spoken about Harris' impact on him. Here's what he told The Winnipeg Sun's Kirk Penton shortly after Harris' death:

Even though Doug Brown called it the toughest day of his football career, it wasn't only through football that Richard Harris impacted his life.

Brown spent an emotional four minutes with the media on Wednesday talking about Harris, his defensive line coach who died of a heart attack on Tuesday. Harris, 63, was just as much Brown's friend as he was his coach.

"I've spent as much time with him off the field and outside of here than I have playing football for him, and they've both been privileges," the Bombers defensive tackle said, his eyes tearing up. "It just happened too fast, and it wasn't enough time.

"He was more than a coach. He made more of an impression on me and was a greater influence on my football career, really, than any coach I've been around."

And, before the Grey Cup, Brown told The National Post's Matthew Scianitti that Harris' death was what was driving the Bombers:

"The lesson you learn is how finite and limited your opportunities are and you want to pay respect to a man that had great influence on everyone."

There's more to Brown's retirement, and to his career, than just this, of course. Brown frequently spoke about the physical pain he was facing from 11 years of football, and it was clearly starting to take a toll on him. Here's what Scianitti wrote on that topic in November:

The pain of Brown's labour, though, has become too much. Anti-inflammatory pills do not dissolve the cascading pain of a sore shoulder that drips into the neck and the back and burns all over. His body's best-before date is fast approaching.

"When you do take on multiple blockers or you're forced to hold your point in the middle of the defence a number of times during the game, things start to break down," Brown said. "Your body starts talking to you and telling you that is it."

Thus, it's unclear if Brown would have come back for another year even if Harris was still around. The loss of his coach and his friend seems to have made his decision easier, though. While walking away now might be the right move for Brown, especially considering the pain he was in, he's certain to leave a void in both the Winnipeg organization and the CFL, much as Harris did.