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Posted at 09:52 AM ET, 05/03/2012

Junior Seau: “The game needs to change”

The day after Junior Seau’s death, there are precious few known reasons for what Oceanside, Calif., police are investigating as a suicide.

There were, according to Seau’s ex-wife, no clues, no hints earlier in the week that Seau would die of what appears to have been a self-inflicted gunshot to the chest. At the Tim Brown celebrity golf tournament in Dana Point, Calif., on Monday, he seemed happy, a highway patrol officer told the San Diego Union-Tribune. On Tuesday, his ex-wife said he texted her and their three children individually to tell them simply, “I love you.”

But in a conversation this spring with Sports Illustrated’s Jim Trotter, who had covered the San Diego Chargers for years and considered Seau a friend, Seau spoke frankly about the effects of playing football and efforts by Commissioner Roger Goodell to make the game safer — against some players’ wishes. On Wednesday, Trotter wrote:

In March, we spoke about the perception that commissioner Roger Goodell was making the game too soft with his enhanced enforcement of player safety rules. “It has to happen,” he said. “Those who are saying the game is changing for the worse, well, they don’t have a father who can’t remember his name because of the game. I’m pretty sure if everybody had to wake with their dad not knowing his name, not knowing his kids’ name, not being able to function at a normal rate after football, they would understand that the game needs to change. If it doesn’t, there are going to be more players, more great players being affected by the things that we know of and aren’t changing. That’s not right.”

Seau’s girlfriend, returning from a workout, found Seau’s body Wednesday morning. A handgun was nearby, but there was no note. If he was battling demons, the only hint may have been a 2010 accident in which he drove off a cliff after his arrest on suspicion of assaulting his girlfriend. But Seau claimed that he had fallen asleep at the wheel and no charges were files over the incident with his girlfriend.


Fans left tributes to Junior Seau. (Sandy Huffaker / Getty Images)
This much is known: Seau is not the first NFL player to die of an apparent suicide this year and there is a connection between repeated hits to the head, concussions and chronic traumatic encephalopathy . It is unknown whether that was a factor in Seau’s death, but researchers at the Boston University Center for the Study of Traumatic Encephalopathy who are studying CTE and the brains of deceased NFL players are attempting to obtain his, SI’s Peter King reports.

Gina Seau told the Associated Press that her ex-husband had sustained concussions during his career. “Of course, he had. He always bounced back and kept on playing,” she said. “He's a warrior. That didn't stop him. I don't know what football player hasn't. It's not ballet. It's part of the game.”

Seau, who retired in 2009 after a 20-year career, would be the second former NFL player to commit suicide in the past two weeks. Ray Easterling, a safety for the Atlanta Falcons in the 1970s and lead plaintiff in a lawsuit against the NFL over concussion-related injuries, died April 19 of a self-inflicted gunshot wound. Former Chicago Bears safety Dave Duerson shot himself in the chest in 2011, leaving a note in which he said he wanted his brain to be donated for study. It was determined that Duerson had degenerative damage because of repeated trauma over his career.

Still, there are no answers yet.

“We have no clues whatsoever. We're as stunned and shocked as anyone else,” Gina Seau told the AP. “We're horribly saddened. We miss him and we'll always love him.”

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More from Washington Post Sports

Junior Seau dies, reportedly of self-inflicted gunshot wound

Player reaction to Seau’s death

From the archives: The ’94 Chargers’ Tragic Toll

Seau’s 2010 auto accident

: Seau’s life in photos

: Eight members of 1994 Chargers Super Bowl team have died before age of 45

By  |  09:52 AM ET, 05/03/2012

 
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