The NFL's body count rises again
Junior Seau is dead. And no matter how anyone tries to rationalize, deny, misdirect, caution, or convince you to the contrary, there is no mistake to be made. Football killed him.
Of course, that is not what the coroner's report will reflect, but as the body count starts to pile up, the evidence is as undeniable as the existence of dinosaurs.
Dave Duerson. John Mackey. Mike Webster. Kenny McKinley. Andre Waters. Terry Long. Tom McHale. Justin Strzelczyk. John Grimsley.
All retired NFL players. All dead of either their own hand or severe mental disease brought on by repeated brain injuries. Of this group, only Mackey lived past the age of 50; although the last 20 years of his life were spent suffering from severe dementia so debilitating that he could not care for even his most basic needs.
Now Junior Seau's name is added to the most tragic list in sports.
One week ago, seemingly out of nowhere, the certain future Hall of Fame linebacker took a loaded handgun, pointed it at his own chest and ended his life.
Since then, his friends and family have universally said that Seau showed no signs whatsoever of depression or despair. In fact, he was even on the sidelines at the USC spring game strumming a ukulele while smiling ear-to-ear less than three weeks earlier.
Looks certainly can be deceiving.
Exactly what ultimately pushed Junior Seau to end it all we will never know, but it is now apparent that the incident where he drove his car off of a cliff in 2010 (after having been arrested earlier in the day after a reported domestic violence incident) was not the harmless accident that he had claimed, but rather an eardrum-piercing shriek for help.
Tragically, Seau never got the assistance he needed. And now, incomprehensibly, it's too late. And while he may be the new face of concussion-related calamity, Junior Seau is not the first, nor will be the last to suffer a similar fate.
Shane Dronett had it all. An All-American defensive lineman for the University of Texas in the early 1990s, Dronett was the second round selection of the Denver Broncos in the 1992 NFL Draft. Outgoing and gregarious, teammates considered him an affable locker room prankster and dedicated and loving family man.
For 10 years, first with the Broncos and then with the Falcons, Dronett was a typical hard-nosed NFL defensive lineman. His run-stopping ability was instrumental in the Falcons reaching Super Bowl XXXIII after the 1998 NFL season. By the time Dronett retired in 2002 after repeated knee and shoulder injuries, he had a career to be proud of.
Immediately after calling it quits in the NFL, Dronett was a happy, dedicated family man, volunteering at his daughters' schools and even paining their fingernails. Dronett's daughter Hayley, now 17, called him "just the best dad in the world."
And then, three years after retirement, Dronett's life began to fall apart.
"He woke up in the middle of the night and started screaming and told everyone to run out of the house," Dronett's wife, Chris, told CNN last year. "He thought that someone was blowing up our house. It was very frightening."
From there, it was one bizarre incident after another.
While ordering at a local fast-food restaurant, unprovoked, Dronett lost his temper in the blink of an eye and punched the cash register employee in the face.
Another time, when Chris and Hayley were in Utah on a ski trip, Shane called them more than 100 times wondering where they were. Every time Chris tried to calm her husband down, he would go off on a paranoid rage, insisting that he was being followed by someone trying to do him harm.
On January 21, 2009, Shane pointed a loaded gun at Chris when she encountered her husband in the hallway of their suburban Atlanta home. Fearing for her life, Chris instinctively ran outside as fast as she could.
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Interesting that a "conservative" like Doug Russell swallows the current media hype hook and sinker. For a more "fair and balanced" (and thoughtful not sensationalist) approach read Daniel Engber's piece, "The Concussion Panic," currently online in SLate magazine.
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