Ted Johnson on D&C: ‘Sick’ over the passing of Junior Seau
|05.03.12 at 10:40 am ET|
Former Patriots linebacker Ted Johnson joined Dennis & Callahan Thursday to discuss the death of NFL great Junior Seau. The former Chargers, Dolphins and Patriots linebacker committed suicide Wednesday, which has brought about questions of whether Seau was suffering from Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy, a degenerative disease common with athletes who have dealt with multiple head injuries.
Johnson said he is “sick” over the passing of Seau, but that there’s no denying that head injuries extend well beyond the game.
“It’s hard to quantify all the hits and what they mean in your life and the decisions you make, but there’s obvious evidence out there that hits to the head can cause problems,” Johnson said. “… It affects your mood, it affects your decision-making. It’s really hard for a lot of guys, especially when they retire, to handle stress-related things. It’s a lot more difficulty to kind of sift through things in life that maybe earlier you could handle.
“People are making judgements as far as perhaps there’s a link to it, and there might be. They’ve done 36 autopsies of former athletes that have had concussions, and 35 of them come back with signs of CTE, which is particularly in guys that have had multiple concussions. You have to think that Junior, if hopefully they can do an autopsy on his brain, will show the same effect. It’s a serious issue.”
Johnson estimates that he himself suffered between 100-150 or more concussions during his 10 years in the NFL. Seau shot himself in the chest, suggesting he may have wanted to leave his brain to be studied. Given that, Johnson noted that “if there’s a tipping point for this issue, this puts it over the edge.”
“There’s this idea that we’re bigger than life, that we have no [weaknesses]. We are football players, we are gladiators, this is what we do. People don’t want to hear about the other stuff,” Johnson said. “I think people are going to find out that there was a lot more demons that Junior had to deal with.
“To link it back to concussion stuff, there’s no question that when your head takes that many hits, that physiologically there’s a shift in your brain. Something changes that you have to deal with and Junior was obviously at a point where he had no other options in his mind other than doing what he did.”
Johnson remembered Seau as a “pro’s pro,” but noted that the perhaps Seau had another side that he kept shielded from teammates and the public eye.
“Somebody who feels life that much who is just that passionate — and the highs, you see him so up and so pumped, and that’s how he was — the thing about it, conversely is the depths he must have gone to,” Johnson said. “He must have dealt with things and gone to levels emotionally on the lowest end that I think are going to come out, that he didn’t want anyone to know about. I wasn’t completely shocked, but at the same time, it makes you think about your own mortality, too.”
Johnson retired during training camp prior to the 2005 season. In the years that followed his retirement, he claimed that part of his concussion problems were the result of Patriots coach Bill Belichick making him practice after suffering a concussion. Johnson said that he has since lost touch with Belichick and owner Robert Kraft.
“It bums me out a little bit,” Johnson said. “When I came out with my story about what happened in ’02 to the [New York] Times and the [Boston] Globe in ’07, I just think, from what I was told, that put a bad taste in Mr. Kraft’s palate. I feel horrible, because it wasn’t about trying to get back at Belichick and Mr. Kraft.
“I owe so much to football. Football saved my life in a lot of ways, and the Krafts, and even coach Belichick and I were able to work things out, but this issue was so much bigger than that. Unfortunately, they took it more personally than I wish they would have. Honestly, I haven’t had any contact with them, and I don’t know. I just feel bad about it, but that’s just the way it is.”
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