The 2019 New England Patriots have a loaded wide receiver corps.
And Malcolm Mitchell was supposed to be a part of it.
A fourth-round pick out of Georgia in 2016, Mitchell seemed poised for a solid career after catching six passes for 70 yards as a rookie in New England's Super Bowl LI win over the Atlanta Falcons.
A knee injury sidelined Mitchell for the entire 2017, though, and he never returned to full strength. He was waived by the Patriots last August and retired from the NFL in March at age 26.
In a recent interview with NBC Sports' Tim Layden, Mitchell candidly discussed how challenging it was to have football suddenly taken away from him.
"I guess I knew I would have this breakup with football, someday," Mitchell told Layden. "I just didn't know how bad it would be on my mental health. It's like I've been reincarnated, as somebody else. And I don't want to be anybody else.
"I have to move on. I know that. I have to come out of this grieving phase, and I'm working on that. I can't stay here, because if I do, I'm as good as dead."
That's pretty powerful stuff, especially from someone like Mitchell, whose talents aren't limited to football. The Georgia native published his own children's book in 2016 and released two short films on his Instagram page in August detailing his struggle with post-NFL life.
Mitchell isn't alone in the fight, either, as he joins a growing number of NFL players forced to retire early who are grappling with their identities in their "second lives."
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Ex-Patriot Malcolm Mitchell opens up about post-NFL 'grieving phase' originally appeared on NBC Sports Boston