Another NFL player has committed suicide, raising the same question as the other deaths: Did brain damage from concussions drive them to pull the trigger?
The latest suicide is Tennessee Titans receiver O.J. Murdock. Only 25, he shot himself in the head while sitting in a car in front of his old school, Middleton High School, Monday morning. He was transported to Tampa General Hospital in critical condition, and died there, according to TampaBay.com.
Murdock is the seventh current or former NFL player in recent years to have committed suicide. The others were Junior Seau, Ray Easterling, Dave Duerson, Andre Waters, Jeff Alm and Kenny McKinley.
Several hours before he shot himself, Murdock texted Fort Hays State receiver coach Al McCray. It was essentially a suicide note. According to McCray, Murdock thanked him for the way he had helped him and his family. Murdock ended the message by saying, “I apologize.”
Then he killed himself.
The Titans issued several statements about Murdock, an always smiling, affable guy whose death stunned his friends and family.
“We are shocked and saddened to hear of O.J. Murdock’s death this morning,” the Titans said initially. “In his brief time here, a number of our players, coaches and staff had grown close to O.J., and this is a difficult time for them. He spent the last year battling back from an Achilles injury as he prepared for this year’s training camp. Our thoughts and prayers are with his family and friends as they try to cope with this tragedy.”
Later on, the Titans posted a full story with quotes from Murdock’s teammates and current or ex-roommates, Titans receiver Damian Williams and tight end Jared Cook. That story didn’t mention whether or not Murdock, during his brief career, had sustained any concussions.
“I basically went out here and practiced for two today,” Williams said on the Titans’ website. “It’s sad he’s not here. We love him, and thoughts go out to his family.”
Murdock signed as an undrafted free agent in 2011 out of Fort Hays State, a Division II university in Kansas, but suffered an Achilles injury at the start of training camp last year. He was in rehab this off-season, but needed more time before he could get off the bench. He was living with Williams, but didn’t report to camp by Friday’s deadline.
Williams and other Titans employees contacted Murdock Friday, according to the Titans’ website, and he said something personal came up but he planned to report to camp Sunday. Williams assumed it was a personal issue but didn’t sense anything out of the ordinary.
Williams said Murdock “was always a happy, jolly guy, so when you hear the news about that today, it was definitely very shocking.”
Cook knew Murdock from their time at South Carolina, where future NFL receivers Sidney Rice and Kenny McKinley also played.
“Sadly, McKinley, who suffered a season-ending knee injury while with the Broncos in 2009, committed suicide in September 2010,” the website said.
Yes, yet another player suicide.
“He (Murdock) seemed in good spirits when he left,” Cook said on the Titans website. “I talked to him a couple of weeks ago, and everything seemed fine.”
Titans general manager Ruston Webster and coach Mike Munchak “sounded similar to fathers coping with the loss of a son as they explained the information they have received on a situation that seems unexplainable,” the Titans’ site said.
“It’s very tough for us as a team and just as a human being in general when you lose somebody at the age of 25 and with their life in front of them as O.J.’s was,” Webster said. “It’s very difficult.”
Added Munchak, “It’s a phone call you never want to get. It’s something that as a head coach you never think you will stand in front of your team and have to give them that type of news. I think everyone was shocked by it, and we weren’t aware of any issues going on.”
The Titans are offering grief counseling to team members.