A day after a study of Aaron Hernandez’s brain showed the ex-New England Patriots tight end who killed himself in April while serving a life sentence for murder had an advanced form of chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE), Pro Football Hall of Famer Cris Carter reflected on the disease, the sport and his own career Friday on his Fox Sports 1 show.
“I wonder what’s going to happen to our generation?” he said in what turned into an emotional eight-minute conversation on “First Things First.”
“I’ve had teammates who killed themselves: Andre Waters, teammate of mine in Philadelphia. I’ve had good friends of mine: Junior Seau, Dave Duerson. Great men, guys that have done tremendous things in their community. All of a sudden they became violent and took their own lives. So I worry. I worry what my future is.”
All of the men Carter mentioned suffered from CTE, a neurodegenerative disease linked to bruising hits on the football field.
Carter, who noted he didn’t suffer “any recorded concussions” during his 16 years as a wide receiver in the NFL, added that while he hasn’t experienced any CTE symptoms, he is still scared he may have the disease, which can only be diagnosed after death.
“I would say there is some type of fear,” he said, citing a July study conducted by Boston University’s CTE Center (which also performed the examination of Hernandez’s brain) that found, of 112 brains donated by former NFL players, 111 showed signs of CTE.
“[There’s a] fear of the unknown,” he added.
Despite it all, Carter said he wouldn’t undo his decision to dedicate his life to football, had any information about CTE been available when he was younger.
“I wouldn’t change a thing,” he said. “Football gave me a sense of purpose. It gave me a sense of me. There’s not a whole bunch of options in America for a black man. But sports gives you that opportunity. … So where would my life be without football? I don’t know. And I hate to think about. … So for me, I still encourage young people. The game is safer now than it’s ever been.”
“I hope the rest of my life works out well,” he added, “but I’m willing to suffer the consequences of what it’s done for me.”