How many more of these suicides will I have to write about?
Today, Wednesday, ex-National Football League player Junior Seau apparently killed himself at his home in Oceanside, Calif. He was only 43, and his death comes less than two weeks after the suicide of another NFL player, Ray Easterling.
Seau’s death is just the latest in a series of suicides by ex-pro football players, many of whom suffered brain injury while they were playing. And when I read this on Boston.com, it sent chills through me: Seau shot himself in the chest, exactly the way that former Chicago Bears defensive back Dave Duerson committed suicide on Feb. 17 last year.
Duerson purposefully didn’t shoot himself in the head because he wanted his brain donated and tested for chronic traumatic encephalopathy, or CTE, a degenerative brain disease that’s been linked to repeated trauma to the head.
Seau, whose body was discovered by his girlfriend, played for both the New England Patriots, the San Diego Chargers and the Miami Dolphins. He was a 12-time NFL Pro Bowl linebacker, and retired in 2010.
Things got a little dicey for Seau in October 2010, according to Boston.com. He had an accident with his SUV, driving off an embankment, and was hospitalized. “Seau told police he fell asleep hours after he was arrested on a felony domestic violence allegation,” Boston.com wrote.
Both the Patriots and the Chargers issued statements Wednesday about Seau’s death.
The Patriots said, “We were shocked to hear of the initial reports regarding Junior Seau earlier today and are deeply saddened by the news of his death. We were fortunate to have had Junior join the Patriots in 2006 and are thankful for his many contributions to the team over the next four years. He had a legendary NFL career and his unrivaled passion for the game quickly made him a fan favorite here in New England. This is a sad day for the entire Patriots organization, our coaches and his many Patriots teammates. Our heartfelt thoughts and prayers go out to his family and his many friends who will mourn this loss.”
The Chargers issued three statements about Seau.
“Everyone at the Chargers is in complete shock and disbelief right now. We ask everyone to stop what they’re doing and send their prayers to Junior and his family.”
Chargers President Dean Spanos:
“I can’t put into words how I’m feeling right now. I’m shocked and devastated. Junior was my friend. We all lost a friend today. Junior was an icon in our community. He transcended the game. He wasn’t just a football player, he was so much more. He was loved by everyone in our family, our organization and throughout the NFL. This is just such a tragic loss. One of the worst things I could ever imagine. My prayers go out to Junior’s family. It’s heartbreaking.”
Head Coach Norv Turner:
“I have no words to describe the passing of Junior Seau. It is a sad, sad day not only for me, but for the whole sports community. I worked with Junior here and later in Miami. I can tell you no one had more character and true leadership ability than Junior. He brought passion to the game of football that was unmatched. His commitment to charitable causes in the community was inspiring. It was an honor to know him. My thoughts and prayers are with his family.”
Seau, Duerson and Easterling aren’t the only NFL suicides. Authorities ruled that ex-Eagle Andre Waters’ death in 2006 was a suicide.
In another creepy note, several newspapers reported on a seeming jinx on the 1994 Chargers team, which lost Super Bowl XXIX to the 49ers. So far, including Seau, eight members of that team have passed at an early age.
According to USA Today, hundreds of people had gathered at Seau’s home to pay their respects, while others had left flowers at the restaurant he owned.
It remains to be seen if Seau’s family will have his brain tested for CTE. It certainly would be a service to players in the NFL. Press accounts about Seau don’t include any history of him suffering concussions. But of course, when he was playing, no one was paying attention to such brain injuries.
By all accounts, Seau was a vibrant, beloved man. I hope his death doesn’t turn out to be the latest tragedy that CTE and brain damage have caused. But I fear he won’t be the last such suicide that I will be writing about.