This is Part One of my article on where the NFL is headed following the death of Junior Seau and the fallout from ‘BountyGate.’
The death of Junior Seau is sad and disturbing on many levels and perhaps maybe in the end, it will cast a more specific light on what the former players of the National Football League go through once their careers have ended. If a true light is destined to shine on the issue, then the beam is clearly aimed at NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell who will no doubt continue to be under more and more pressure as the issue of ‘player safety’ becomes more relevant. (I’ll have more on player safety in part two.)
If you have read any of my stuff in the past then you already know I have no love for the Commissioner. While I understand his intentions in pushing for greater player safety, I strongly disagree with how it has been implemented and worse yet, his overwhelming lack of communication to the fans reeks of pending litigation brought forth by former players. The former players I speak of are suing the NFL for its’ lack of attention to head and other catastrophic injuries during their playing days. Perhaps even worse, the case will also deal with the NFL’s complete lack of awareness in the matters as though they were simply putting their players out to pasture to go away and die.
The players are not blameless in this. Even though some are from eras where million-dollar paydays were non-existent and some even had to have jobs in the off-season, these players still could have been more proactive about saving money, investing and just simply have taken better care of themselves. If a firefighter works for 30 years and then retires, he can’t come back to the department complaining that his retirement nest egg is gone after a few years of wreck-less spending. That isn’t the fire department’s fault any more than it is the NFL’s fault that so many players are financially strapped after just a few years out of the league. But can and should the NFL do more?
Being a professional football player is unlike any other profession. With careers averaging somewhere in the neighborhood of 6 years, the idea of actually ‘retiring’ around 31 or so is a very real situation. Should the NFL be doing more to help players transition into the world away from the game? Former Bronco and Buccaneer John Lynch thinks so as does the crazier-than-ever Bill Romanowski who both appeared on “The Jim Rome Show” yesterday. Both men talked about how difficult the transition can be when for most of your youth and adult life you know one thing, football, and then boom! It’s gone. The need to train hard is gone and the intensity is gone and the brotherhood is gone and very few things in life outside football can replace that.
Perhaps all of the wannabee doctors on Twitter should have thought of that following the news of Seau’s death. Many immediately speculated because of how he took his own life that it “must be because of depression caused by too many collisions.” Maybe it was simply depression caused by the absence of the things I mentioned above. Or maybe it was his personal life or his financial struggles. Either way, Seau’s death will more than likely become known as the place where change effectively started in the NFL’s treatment of former players. If the NFL and the Players’ Association can come together on programs to assist former and retired players as they exit the game, then hopefully we can say that Seau did not die in vain.