The Washington Post

Emmitt Smith says “why wouldn’t I worry?” about effects of playing football

Emmitt Smith picks up yardage against the Redskins in a 1991 game at RFK Stadium. (Greg Gibson / AP)

Add Emmitt Smith, the NFL’s all-time leading rusher and a Hall of Famer in his career with the Dallas Cowboys, to the list of present and former NFL players who are talking about their concern for their future health in the wake of the suicide of Junior Seau.

“Why wouldn’t I worry?” Smith told the Fort Worth Star-Telegram’s Clarence E. Hill. “The evidence is starting to pile up. You are talking to a guy who carried the ball more than anybody in NFL history. So why wouldn’t I worry? I pray about it.”

Smith wasn’t speculating about whether the effects of traumatic hits contributed to Seau’s death — “What you don’t know is what Junior was going through” — but spoke of the psychological difficulties that athletes often have when they walk away from the game.

“It’s never about the money,” Smith said. “It’s about the individual person. Whether that person has fulfillment in life and can find a way to have joy and peace in their life. If you don’t have those things and don’t have a sense of self-worth in life, depression can set in and lead to other things. It’s just a sad situation. I don’t look at it lightly.

“I don’t know if it was head trauma or not [with Seau]. The only way I see it now is where Junior was at today mentally players may not identify with ’cause they are in the now. He was in the yesterday. They have to realize his yesterday is their tomorrow. Just going through life itself and through the transitions of leaving a sport we all played for a number of years. Sometimes when that light goes out, it’s hard to find another light that fuels you.”

Follow us: @CindyBoren | @MattBrooksWP

More from Washington Post Sports

Junior Seau dies

Player reaction to Seau’s death

Seau in March: “The game needs to change”

After spending most of her career in traditional print sports journalism, Cindy began blogging and tweeting, first as NFL/Redskins editor, and, since August 2010, at The Early Lead. She also is the social media editor for Sports.


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