When a group of former NFL players met in San Diego to discuss the lasting health effects of football, the date happened to fall on the anniversary of Junior Seau’s death.
Seau's family has filed a wrongful death suit against the league claiming the legendary linebacker’s May 2012 suicide was the result of brain disease caused by violent hits during football.
Since the loss of the former San Diego Chargers and Miami Dolphins veteran, and two other high-profile players’ deaths, the NFL has incorporated new measures to increase the safety of players.
Players meeting with their former colleagues in Mission Valley Thursday night weren’t hesitant to speak publicly about how the game has affected their bodies and their minds.
Former New Orlean Saints/Baltimore Ravens defensive back Vashone Adams, 39, uses a cane when he walks because of back and hip injuries. He also says he suffers from depression and headaches.
When asked if he would still play professional football knowing the toll it would take on his body, Adams said, “At this point, how I feel I would say no. if I had known at this early age I would be having these symptoms but at the time, coming out as a college kid with no money and living a life-long dream, I wouldn’t have said that then.”
Former Buffalo Bills wide receiver (1985-1999) Andre Reed knows about the beating players take on the field. Reed, who says he suffers headaches and short-term memory loss, is now a part of suit against helmet company Riddell.
Reed and former San Diego Chargers Mike Goff say Seau was such a high-profile player, many more people are now taking a hard look at things like concussions, brain injuries and depression in former players.
Seau is not the first former NFL player who killed himself, then was found to have CTE. Dave Duerson and Ray Easterling are others. Even so, it was Seau's larger-than-life persona on and off the field that has sparked more discussion.
“It opens up the conversation because of what Junior Seau meant to the NFL,” Goff said.
It's what Seau has helped to do in the year after his death that may help bring about the most change.
In September the NFL donated $30 million to the National Institutes of Health for brain injury research. Even so, the players say there is more to be done.
“As former players that's what we're trying to do, not only raise the awareness of what it means and the effects of it but it’s for the guys who are coming in the league,” Reed said. Watch video