Junior Seau's Death Draws More Focus To NFL's Issues With Head Injuries
Former NFLer Junior Seau “died from a self-inflicted gunshot wound” at his Oceanside, Calif., home, according to a front-page piece by Baker, Davis & Repard of the SAN DIEGO UNION-TRIBUNE. Oceanside Police Chief Frank McCoy said that a "handgun was found" near Seau’s body and that police are “investigating the death as a suicide,” although no suicide note was found. The Medical Examiner's Office said that an autopsy is “expected to be completed” today. Seau played the first 13 of his 20 NFL seasons with the Chargers, and team Chair & President Dean Spanos in a statement said, “Junior was an icon in our community. He transcended the game” (SAN DIEGO UNION-TRIBUNE, 5/3). NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell in a statement said, “All of us are deeply saddened about Junior Seau, a great player loved by teammates who also worked hard to serve his community” (NFL). SI.com’s Jim Trotter noted Seau is the "third retired player in the last 15 months to shoot himself to death” (SI.com, 5/2). In San Diego, Janet Lavelle notes Seau’s death “was reminiscent of the 2011 suicide of former Chicago Bears safety Dave Duerson, who also died of a self-inflicted gunshot wound to the chest” (SAN DIEGO UNION-TRIBUNE, 5/3). NBC News' Brian Williams said Seau’s name "now joins a growing sad list of players who have found their post-game years filled with too much pain to go on” (“Nightly News,” NBC, 5/2).
LOOKING FOR ANSWERS: SI's Peter King reported today on his Twitter account Boston Univ.'s Sports Legacy Institute is "attempting to obtain" Seau's brain to see if there is any damage to it from his football career (TWITTER.com, 5/3). ABC News' Diane Sawyer reported Seau's "football colleagues are asking is this somehow another example of that legacy of the punishment players take on the field.” ABC News’ David Wright noted the NFL is "focused” on the issue of head trauma “as never before, in part because of some high-profile player lawsuits” (“World News,” ABC, 5/2). In Boston, Zaremba & McConville note Seau’s death “comes as the league fights scores of lawsuits from players who say they were never warned about the long-term consequences of head trauma” (BOSTON HERALD, 5/3). In Pennsylvania, Jonathan Tamari notes doctors “have cautioned that they have not established a definitive link between brain injuries and suicide” (PHILADELPHIA INQUIRER, 5/3). ESPN's Chris Mortensen noted Seau "played that game with great passion -- and a lot of collisions." There are "going to be people wondering of Junior ... whether or not these dots will eventually be connected” (“Outside The Lines,” ESPN, 5/2). ABC News’ Josh Elliott said this is "going to turn a very bright light on this class action lawsuit” against the NFL “if somebody like Junior Seau is linked to this. ... It is going to change the game entirely” (“GMA,” ABC, 5/3).
SOMETHING TO THINK ABOUT: In San Jose, Mark Emmons writes it is "unknown if football had anything to do with Seau’s death," but the fact that people "quickly drew a possible connection between his death and football violence demonstrates that the NFL’s concussion crisis may have reached a tipping point” (SAN JOSE MERCURY NEWS, 5/3). In Detroit, John Niyo writes even as people “mourn the passing of one of the game’s greats, there can not be enough concern about what is happening to retired pro football players." Niyo: "They are killing themselves” (DETROIT NEWS, 5/3). In N.Y., Michael Keefe writes, “Suicide, it seems, has become an occupational hazard for football players, the tab at least some gridiron stars pay once the NFL paychecks and perks that come with being a professional athlete stop coming” (N.Y. DAILY NEWS, 5/3). In Philadelphia, Will Bunch writes the NFL is “fast becoming the No Future League.” Bunch: “When your players are dying twenty years before everyone else, when the suicide of a beloved and successful athlete in his 40s becomes a familiar headline, you do not have a public-relations problem. You have a full-blown crisis that is undermining the very essence of your sport” (PHILLY.com, 5/3). In Boston, Ron Borges writes that the NFL and the people who run it “have much to think about this morning beyond grief." Borges: "They have to think about where their game is headed” (BOSTON HERALD, 5/3). In S.F., Vittorio Tafur writes it seems as if Seau was “trying to tell us something about the game of football we love so much” (S.F, CHRONICLE, 5/3). In San Jose, Monte Poole writes, “It’s time the league, and maybe the federal government, takes a long and deep look at this disturbing trend” (SAN JOSE MERCURY NEWS, 5/3).
DANGEROUS IMPACT: In Ft. Lauderdale, Izzy Gould notes Seau “didn’t have a documented history of concussions” during his career, but his death is “certain to spark more questions about whether his suicide could be linked” to the effects of concussions (South Florida SUN-SENTINEL, 5/3). In San Diego, Tim Sullivan notes if Seau sustained significant head trauma during his career, he “never appeared on an NFL injury report suffering from a concussion.” Sullivan: “Still, the evidence already before us fits a disturbing pattern” (SAN DIEGO UNION-TRIBUNE, 5/3). YAHOO SPORTS' Michael Silver writes “at first blush, there is some circumstantial evidence that points toward a possible connection to head trauma.” If it turns out that Seau had Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy (CTE), it will “provide a chilling jolt to the already tense landscape of 21st century football” (SPORTS.YAHOO.com, 5/3). In Miami, Greg Cote writes, “I would be very concerned about the possible link between concussions and these suicides if I were ... Goodell. And I would certainly go public with my concerns now, because attention reaches a whole new level when the tragic face of an issue suddenly is a respected 12-time Pro Bowler such as Seau” (MIAMI HERALD, 5/3).
BIGGEST ISSUE: The Chicago Tribune’s Matt Bowen, who played seven seasons in the NFL, said head trauma is the "biggest issue the NFL has faced" in its history ("Chicago Tribune Live," Comcast SportsNet Chicago, 5/2). SI.com’s Andy Staples wrote the "immediate reaction is to point the finger a football." The mounting evidence that repeated shots to the head “could be slowly killing” football players. Repeated head trauma is “the biggest problem the sport has right now,” not bounties (SI.com, 5/2). In K.C., Sam Mellinger writes under the headline, “How Many More Deaths Can NFL Fans Take?” Mellinger: “How much longer can this go on? What’s your tolerance for this? How much stamina do you have for the men you cheer today dying tragic and premature deaths in the coming years? How much longer can you be a fan of a sport that appears to be killing its athletes?” (K.C. STAR, 5/3). USA TODAY's Mike Lopresti writes Seau is “somehow another casualty of a physical game that took too much, one tackle at a time.” Neurosurgeon Julian Bailes said, “We have to add him to the list of those we worry about who could have effects of chronic, repetitive brain trauma.” Lopresti writes, “You are Goodell, and you must wait for another investigation and autopsy to find out if there has been another man perhaps haunted by his football past” (USA TODAY, 5/3).
NOT SURPRISED: In N.Y., Don Kaplan reports Seau’s death “didn’t stun” Pro Football HOFer Harry Carson. He said, “I’m not surprised. I feel for his family, but I’m not really surprised.” Carson noted that “too many players -- perhaps including Seau -- can’t make it outside of football because of long-term injuries.” Carson: “I knew years ago, that there would come a point in time that these guys who were having neurological issues -- that players were going to be committing suicide. To me it has come to pass” (N.Y. POST, 5/3). Also in N.Y., Steve Serby notes Carson “predicted a rash of NFL suicides” because of the neurological damage that can occur from playing the game. Carson: “I knew how I felt as a player, having those thoughts of suicide, and you’re going through something and it’s like you can’t really explain what you’re dealing with, and it’s neurological” (N.Y. POST, 5/3).