By Tim Arrick
Yesterday I was sitting in a meeting when I saw the death of Junior Seau come across my Twitter feed. My first response and I’m sure the first response of many was that the rigors of professional football have claimed another life.
Seau, a definite hall of famer with 12 Pro Bowl selections and 6 All Pro Teams has had a troubled history since his retirement. In 2010 domestic abuse charges were filed against him and then later, he drove his car off a cliff but claimed to police that he had merely fallen asleep at the wheel. Now with his apparent suicide it is clear that Seau was a troubled man and it doesn’t take a large leap to assume that hits taken to the head in his playing career may have contributed to that.
While the loss of Seau at the young age of 43 was troubling to me I was positively infuriated when I got back to my desk and started to read about the other major story of the day, NFL Commissioner Goodell’s suspensions of the New Orleans Saints players involved in “BountyGate”.
As expected Goodell took a definite hard line with the major players involved. Jonathon Vilma was suspended for an entire season, Anthony Hargrove received an eight game suspension, Will Smith received four games and Scott Fujita received three games. I applaud the Commissioner’s response and the suspensions but I am amazed by inane responses from current NFL players in regards to the suspensions on their Twitter accounts.
Saints TE Jimmy Grahm (@TheJimmyGrahm) : “This is beyond ridiculous! I want to see the evidence and hear an explanation. Its sad when u have to hear about it on tv. Ridiculous!”.
Pittsburgh Steelers LB LaMarr Woodley (@LaMarrWoodley) “Vilma suspended a whole yr FOR PLAYING FOOTBALL???? Cmon man!!!!!”
Steelers LB James Harrison (@jharrison9292) : “Ridiculous, and nobody really sees why the punishments have been so severe over the past 3 4years! Lawsuits and 18 games???”
Houston Texans WR Derrick Mason “I feel for u J.Vilma! Goodell not the entire season! We only get a average of 3years to play and u have taken a entire season from a man.”
This is just a small sample of the player tweets that were out there in support of Vilma and the other Saints players.
All I can say to the players is how incredibly shortsighted are you. An NFL Legend just committed suicide quite possibly because of brain injuries caused during his football career and you are complaining about the Commissioner suspending someone for INTENTIONALLY trying to cause severe injury to another player. Not “playing football” as LaMaar Woodley claims but offering money for someone to take a cheap shot and end another player’s career. Furthermore, it isn’t like Seau is the first player to succumb to this tragedy. According the NY Times, the suicide rate among former NFL Players is 65% greater than that of the general population. Guys that isn’t a statistical fluke, it is a definite trend.
Each and every one of you is at risk for similar brain injuries when you play and illegal blows to the head and bounty programs only increase the likelihood that you too will be found in your house some afternoon dead of a self-inflicted gunshot wound. You are NOT invincible.