Gary Plummer lined up next to Junior Seau for four years as a teammate with the San Diego Chargers. Like the rest of the NFL world, Gary is having a hard time accepting the fact that Seau is no longer with us. In an interview with the Mercury News, Plummer sheds some light on the situation that many had no idea was going on.
On Thursday, Plummer said he was doing “terrible” a day after the death of Junior Seau, which has officially been ruled a suicide by the San Diego medical examiners office. Plummer talked about how there is no easy way to leave behind the game once you retire, saying “You can grow up and live your childhood dream and be a hometown hero and then feel, ‘Is this all there is?’ when it’s over, There is no exit strategy from the NFL,” Plummer told the Mercury News from his San Diego home Thursday.“It’s: ‘You’re done.’ You don’t even get an apple and a road map.”
LB's Seau and Plummer celebrate in the end zone after a win against the Los Angeles Raiders
In recent interviews with players and coaches that knew Junior, all of them said that it pained him to leave the game of football. It was his life, his mission, and when he hung up the cleats he had a hard time dealing with it. “Junior obviously had been facing demons for at least 18 months. That’s no longer speculation. People can take pills, run their car off the road, and that’s a cry for help. He was crying out for help. Yet he was too proud to ask for it.” Said Plummer, although his last interaction with Junior was just two weeks ago was upbeat and normal, he thought there was something going on, pulling him to the side to ask how he was really doing. Junior said “Good, Really.”
Seau’s brain has been donated to researchers so they can study it and find out if Junior did have CTE (Chronic traumatic encephalopathy), a brain disorder that stems from multiple concussions or head trauma that leads it’s sufferers to experience depression, psychotic symptoms, erratic behavior, memory loss, full blown Dementia and Parkinson’s Disease.
“Junior played for 20 years. That’s five concussions a game, easily. How many in his career then? That’s over 1,500 concussions. I know that’s startling, but I know it’s true. I had over 1,000 in my 15 years. I felt the effects of it. I felt depression going on throughout my divorce. Junior went through it with his divorce.” Plummer said, He also weighed in on the current way the NFL is handling concussions saying “The NFL has made great strides in having an independent evaluator on the sidelines for concussions. What needs to happen now is, and Junior is a perfect example: You’re judged not just on the way you played the game but the most revered characteristic is how tough you are. You’re taught that you need to be a tough guy, and not just physically.”
He also touched on ways that problems like this can be avoided, and frankly, it seems like a good idea to me. “What needs to happen is mandatory counseling. In 15 years as a middle linebacker, I never would have thought of seeing a counselor. I saw one in my divorce, and I just called my counselor today. It can’t be optional, because macho players are taught to be invincible, and they’re not going to do it. Make it mandatory.”
Junior’s brain will be studied and broken down, and if he really did sustain 1,500 concussions in his playing days, he’ll most likely have traits of CTE. There is still plenty of emotion flying around the league on the passing of Seau, and here’s to hoping that other former players, or any human being for that matter, step up and try to get the help they need.
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Sports-Kings Senior NFL Columnist – Justin Arbogast