Breakfast links: Thoughts on Junior Seau

May, 3, 2012
5/03/12
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Junior Seau never played in the NFC East, but if the story of his death Wednesday at the age of 43 didn't shake you up, you're made of stone. Police are investigating the possibility of suicide, and since he died of a gunshot wound to the chest, that possibility recalls former Bears safety Dave Duerson, who shot himself in the chest last year and left messages asking that his brain be studied for evidence that playing football damaged it. We don't know yet of any such message left by Seau. We don't know why he's dead, or if playing football had anything to do with it, and we may never know. A lot of conclusions are being jumped to, and the temptation to make those jumps is understanding, but the fact is that a man is dead, far too young, and the outrage can and should be put on hold while respect is paid.

A few things are clear, though. Seau's story -- the part that came before Wednesday -- indicates a man who struggled with his transition to post-NFL life. Whether that struggle had to do with damage done to him by playing the game remains to be seen and surely debated. But stories such as this one are a major part of the current culture surrounding today's NFL.

The idea that Seau's death might even possibly be fallout from a playing career that took too intense a toll is part of the expanding tapestry of concern that governs the league's actions on such matters as the Saints' bounty scandal. With more than 1,100 former NFL players currently suing the league for allegedly ignoring the long-term effects of head and other injuries suffered during their playing careers, the NFL and commissioner Roger Goodell feel required to take a hard line on player safety. Rules will continue to be changed and modified to address the violence inherent in the game. Suspensions for actions the league believes could result in too-serious injury will continue to be harsh, even extreme, to give the league as strong a base as possible from which to claim it did not turn a blind eye if and when any of these suits ever find their way to a judge.

The NFLPA took some heat Wednesday, in the wake of the announcement of the Saints' suspensions, for not negotiating during the last CBA talks a change in the discipline policy that would have allowed players to appeal to someone other than Goodell. What wasn't mentioned during those discussions were the many concessions the players did win in last year's negotiations -- quality-of-life things like improved post-career health care, injury guarantees in contracts, reductions in the demands made on players during the offseason program and drastic cutbacks in the amount of contact permitted in offseason and training-camp practices. Those are the issues the players believed were most important, because those are the issues that affect them and their families long term, as people, once their short careers are over.

Part of the problem with the NFL is that fans tend to see these players as characters that appear on a weekly TV show, not as real human beings who are willingly subjecting themselves to physical punishment for our entertainment. But when something like Seau's death happens, everybody gets reminded of the reality that lurks behind the noise and the excitement and the bright colors of game day. And while fans may not like these reminders, sadly, they're not going away. They're a part of the game in 2012 and in the future, and they're here to change the way the people who watch and run football think about it. Or else.

Thank you for indulging me. Here are your links.

Dallas Cowboys

As the Cowboys look down their roster for a possible new No. 3 wide receiver, it's worth remembering Raymond Radway's turn last summer as a fun breakout possibility. He got hurt, and that ended that, but he says he's feeling better now and would like a chance to compete for the spot. I image he'll get that chance.

One place where the Cowboys still face a big question mark is at punter, with an injured Mat McBriar still unsigned and Chris Jones the only punter currently on their roster. So they're working out new punters to see whether they can upgrade. Hey, it matters. Just ask the Jaguars.

New York Giants

Eli Manning plans to "kind of let loose" when he hosts "Saturday Night Live" this weekend. He also says one of his favorite "SNL" skits of all time was the "Chippendales" bit that Chris Farley and Patrick Swayze did. I was always more partial to Matt Foley, motivational speaker, myself.

While we wait to find out where Manning ranks on this year's player-voted NFL Network top 100, Giants receiver Hakeem Nicks checked in at No. 90 on the list. Still underrated, is Nicks, but he doesn't care.

Philadelphia Eagles

Sheil Kapadia has a nice breakdown of the Eagles' linebacker situation with DeMeco Ryans and rookie Mychal Kendricks in the mix. Number of different ways they can go there, but with Ryans brought in to start in the middle, it sure seems as though they plan on Kendricks starting alongside him at one of the spots.

Ray Didinger discusses the possibility that rookie Vinny Curry could surpass 2010 first-round pick Brandon Graham on the depth chart at defensive end, and how soon that might happen.

Washington Redskins

Robert Griffin III is no ordinary football player. Read Rick Maese's story about the plans Griffin has for the film he's working on to complete his master's thesis. It's something he calls "mixed reality." Different kind of cat, this one. Got some things going for him.

Yes, Redskins fans have fallen head-over-heels in love with their new quarterback, and for what appears to be good reason. Dan Daly writes that Griffin's task is to make sure not to lose that love.

Dan Graziano

ESPN New York Giants reporter

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