Seau Too Young, Too Much Company

Jerry Lopez

San Diego Chargers fan Jerry Lopez looks over a memorial set up in the driveway of the house of former NFL star Junior Seau May 3 in Oceanside, Calif. AP photo/Denis Poroy

The recent death by gunshot of former NFL star Junior Seau at the age of 43 left far more questions than answers. The preliminary indications suggested suicide, and many found that unsurprising considering a 2010 incident following Seau’s arrest for domestic assault when he drove his SUV off a cliff in Carlsbad, Calif. Seau maintained he had fallen asleep; not everyone was convinced it was an accident.

While Seau’s career was hugely successful with six All Pro awards and 12 Pro Bowl selections, his life was very different when football was finished. He’d played 20 years in the NFL and the adoring crowds were gone, the roars of approval silenced.

Professional athletes often suffer a letdown that leads to depression at the end of a career. For football players it can be even worse. Increasing evidence of brain damage caused by years of blows to the head plus a football culture that makes it difficult to seek help for mental health issues can be a catastrophic combination.

There have been numerous suicides by former players linked to brain damage suffered on the playing field. The late Chicago Bear Dave Duerson is one of many athletes whose family is suing the NFL for its role in the devastating consequences of head injuries. Many experts are convinced that serious cumulative damage occurs even without a dramatic concussive event.

We are a long way from knowing the particulars of Seau’s case. We do know that he died alone and far too young at a time that should have been the prime of his life.

* Roger Goodell’s decision to suspend four former Saints players for their roles in the bounty system is being hotly debated in sports and even legal circles. With Jonathon Vilma being singled out for a full season without football, some are questioning the correlation between Goodell’s statement that executives and coaches should be held to a higher standard and the severity of Vilma’s penalty.

It matches the sanction handed to Saints head coach Sean Payton, a man who was in a position to stop the bounties.

Players have long contended that Goodell is harder on players than executives ever since Bill Belichick got off with a wrist slap for Spygate.

I’m inclined to think that the worst part of the punishment is the appeals process when players can only appeal to Goodell, the same man who handed down the penalties in the first place. It would make far more sense and seem much fairer if there were arbitrators employed for that purpose.

* The final spring scrimmage was held last week at T.C. Ching field, and while it had some good moments, it was evident that the 2012 Warriors are very much a work in progress.

We shall certainly see a new look this fall with multiple formations on display including a wildcat look. It appears the role of starting QB remains an open competition into the fall.

The team is only a small number of practices away from its opener with USC Sept. 1 at the Coliseum. Tune in Tuesday night to ESPN 1420 AM for Call the Coach as Norm Chow will offer insights and answer questions, or come at 6 p.m. to be part of the show at the Outrigger Reef on the Beach.