When he ended his life last year by shooting himself in the chest, Junior Seau had a degenerative brain disease often linked with repeated blows to the head.
Researchers from the National Institutes of Health said Thursday the former NFL star’s abnormalities are consistent with chronic traumatic encephalopathy, or CTE.
The hard-hitting linebacker played for 20 NFL seasons with San Diego, Miami and New England before retiring in 2009. He died at age 43 of a self-inflicted gunshot in May, and his family requested the analysis of his brain.
“We saw changes in his behavior and things that didn’t add up with him,” his ex-wife, Gina, told The Associated Press. “But (CTE) was not something we considered or even were aware of. But pretty immediately (after the suicide) doctors were trying to get their hands on Junior’s brain to examine it.”
The NIH, based in Bethesda, Md., studied three unidentified brains, one of which was Seau’s, and said the findings on Seau were similar to autopsies of people “with exposure to repetitive head injuries.”
“It was important to us to get to the bottom of this, the truth,” Gina Seau said.
Seau joins a list of several-dozen football players who were found to have CTE. Boston University’s center for study of the disease reported last month that 34 former pro players and nine who played only college football suffered from CTE.
The NFL faces lawsuits by thousands of former players who say the league withheld information on the harmful effects of concussions. According to an AP review of 175 lawsuits, 3,818 players have sued. At least 26 Hall of Fame players are among the players who have done so.
JAGS FIRE MULARKEY
The Jacksonville Jaguars fired coach Mike Mularkey after one season – at 2-14, the worst in franchise history.
New general manager David Caldwell made the announcement when he was introduced on Thursday, and he also made it clear the Jaguars have no plans to pursue popular and polarizing New York Jets backup quarterback Tim Tebow.
The Jets are likely to release the 2007 Heisman Trophy winner and Jacksonville, Fla., native during the offseason, and many thought Tebow would land with the Jags.
Caldwell nixed that idea saying, “I can’t imagine a scenario in which he’ll be a Jacksonville Jaguar — even if he’s released.”
BROWNS HIRE CHUDZINSKI
Rob Chudzinski’s first head coaching job will be with the team he loved as a kid.
Chudzinski, who spent the past two seasons as Carolina’s offensive coordinator, has been hired by the Browns as their sixth full-time coach since 1999. It’s the third stint in Cleveland for Chudzinski, who worked with the Browns previously as an assistant.
He will be charged with resurrecting a franchise that has made just one trip to the playoffs in 14 years.
STEELERS CUT RAINEY
The Steelers cut troubled rookie running back Chris Rainey after his arrest on a battery charge in Florida.
Gainesville, Fla., police officers charged Rainey with a single count of misdemeanor simple battery following an incident in which witnesses said he slapped his girlfriend.
It’s the latest in a series of off-the-field incidents for Rainey – he was dismissed from the University of Florida team after he was arrested Sept. 14, 2010, and charged with aggravated stalking, a third-degree felony, for allegedly sending a former girlfriend a threatening text message that read, in part, “Time to die …”
Former Jets defensive coordinator Mike Pettine has been hired by the Bills as their new defensive coordinator, and Nathaniel Hackett is following new coach Doug Marrone from Syracuse to run the Bills’ offense. … San Francisco coach Jim Harbaugh said embattled kicker David Akers is keeping is job. … … Vikings linebacker Chad Greenway has been added to the NFC Pro Bowl team as an injury replacement for the Cowboys’ DeMarcus Ware.