As a sports fan, it’s never easy to accept the retirement of one of the greatest to ever play the game, let alone his death.Â And that’s exactly what millions of NFL fans were forced to do yesterday.Â As news broke that Junior Seau, 43, suffered a self-inflicted gunshot wound to the chest, I and many others were stunned.
How is it that someone who was tough enough to endure a 20-year NFL career succumbed to the ordinary challenge of living life?
Earlier in the day, Roger Goodell’s one-year suspension of Jonathan Vilma fueled outrage.Â Many players and fans questioned how Goodell could ban a player for a year.Â After all, Vilma was just playing the game of football.Â Right?
Goodell sees it differently.Â It’s his job to ensure the safety of all players, which is a lot easier said than done when an inherent part of the game includes player contact.Â And his job is increasingly made more difficult when players further jeopardize the health of players by ignoring the rules in place.
Some argue bounties have been part of the NFL culture for years, which is probably true.Â However, now that bounties have become public knowledge, it was necessary that Goodell act sternly to ensure teams never engage in bounties again.Â If Goodell felt it was necessary to hit Vilma with a one-year suspension in order to make his point, then so be it.Â Vilma knew what he was doing was illegal by NFL standards and took his chances.Â Unfortunately for him, he was caught and is now forced to deal with the consequences.
Like most fans, I complain each time the NFL announces another rule change.Â But in light of Seau’s death, I’m more open.Â Even though there hasn’t been an official link between Seau’s death and any brain trauma, the years of helmet-to-helmet contact more than likely contributed to Seau’s suicide.
It’s inevitable.Â The high-profile death of a future Hall-of-Famer will further fuel concussion concerns, and that’s a good thing.Â The NFL has a responsibility to its players and their families to provide them with all of the benefits and resources to live healthy lives post-retirement.Â To date, they’ve fallen short.Â Focusing on in-game player safety is also important, but the NFL must do more to reach the other hundreds of players who believe they’re living beyond repair before it’s too late.
RIP, Junior Seau.