It seems that once or twice a year we’re faced with the death of a former NFL player, usually in some tragic fashion. The loss of any life is significant but I have to say that the death of Junior Seau has hit me harder than the death of any athlete in recent memory. As a kid I grew up watching Junior Seau play and I was always a fan. Playing linebacker in high school he was one of the guys I looked to pattern my game after, mostly unsuccessfully. For better or worse the nature and timing of his death has increased the noise level on the head injury discussion. With the bounty scandal still brewing and the violent nature of the position he played, Seau’s death will inevitably be linked to chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE). At this point there is no way to tell if Seau was suffering from CTE but regardless I hope that his death serves as a catalyst to improve player safety.
As much as I love the game of football and it’s sometimes violent nature it is becoming obvious that the status quo will not hold. While I hope that there is some way that the safety of the game can be improved without completely sacrificing the integrity of the sport, it is time that player safety becomes the NFL’s number 1 priority. The fines and suspensions handed out for the Saints’ bounty program and during the season for violent hits is just window dressing in my opinion. The NFL has made strides in how head injuries are treated and managed but I believe more can be done in regards to equipment and post-concussion management. As tragic as his untimely passing is, I hope Junior Seau’s death can at least serve to hasten the NFL’s progress towards a safer game.
Junior Seau’s enthusiasm for the game was infectious and his non-stop motor always made him fun to watch. I’d like to use the remainder of this post to remember Junior Seau for the great player that he was.