Curran: Light retirement highlights post-NFL transition


Curran: Light retirement highlights post-NFL transition

FOXBORO -- At some point on a perfect spring Monday in New England, Matt Light drove away from Gillette Stadium and into the rest of his life.

He is 33-years-old and the 11-year swath of time in which he lived in a world of maximum physical and mental stimulation is over.

If he lives to the ripe, old age of 80, the NFL career for which he'll always be remembered in the public eye will have represented about 13 percent of his life.

The other 87 percent has been and will be all about Matt Light, normal guy. He seems exceptionally well-positioned to make the transition.

"Everybody has their own way of dealing with things," Light said during a nicely-executed retirement ceremony at the Patriots Hall of Fame. "I'm fairly confident that the transition will happen and it'll go smoothly and things will work out. That's kind of just the way I've led my life. If you surround yourself with quality people, you surround yourself with real people and you do things for the right reasons, opportunities will present themselves to you. And if it's meant to be it'll work out in time."

This is a very important subject right now. Young men who decide or are told that their football careers are over enter civilian life and are faced with figuring out who they are as men, husbands, fathers, sons and members of society as ex-NFL players.

The focus since Junior Seau's suicide last Thursday has been on concussions and CTE and wondering how blows to the head caused him to kill himself.

Far less discussion has been devoted to talking about depression and the transition to post-NFL life that so many players seem to struggle with.

CTE may or may not be found if Seau's brain is donated for evaluation. But depression and a loss of his will to live was certainly present for Seau and any other person who makes the tragic decision he made.

There may be scores of former NFL players with CTE that lived productively and happily for the rest of their lives but we never learned of the damage they had because they didn't die young and violently and have their brains examined.

CTE may or may not be a precursor to suicide. But depression is. And the post-football funk players descend into is what needs addressing.

On Sunday, Bears wide receiver Brandon Marshall, who is bipolar and struggles with mental health issues, wrote a piece for the Chicago Sun-Times:

Looking at the situation with Seau and other cases with retired athletes, I think our focus should be more on why the transition seems to be so hard after football.As athletes, we go through life getting praised and worshipped and making a lot of money. Our worlds and everything in them spouses, kids, family, religion and friends revolve around us. We create a world where our sport is our life and makes us who we are.When the game is taken away from us or when we stop playing, the shock of not hearing the praise or receiving the big bucks often turns out to be devastating. The blueprint I am creating for myself will help not only other athletes, it will help suffering people all over."London Fletcher said post-career counseling should be mandated and he wants the NFL and the NFLPA to work together on that.

You take the decision out of guys hands, and that way, maybe some of them will be helped, Fletcher told Peter King of Sports Illustrated. If players have to go seek counseling on their own, lots of guys wont do that. Men in general, were wired to hold things inside. Its not manly to be vulnerable and ask for help. For me, now, I can tell you Im going to seek help if I feel I need it. Thats what Juniors death has taught me.

When a player's NFL career ends, his prime earning years are over. The vocation he's devoted himself to for decades is gone. He's got about 60 years of life staring him in the face and a family to re-introduce himself to, a family that has to itself adjust to the fact that the lights have gone off on a way of life they may have also strongly identified with.

It's hard. Some make the transition easily. Others do not.

The help is there for players who seek it, said Light.

"The resources and the people that are in place within the NFL and the NFLPA and for a large part with each individual organization can really help guys with that transition," Light explained. "It's been helpful to me to have a guy like (strength coach and player development person) Harold Nash who says, 'Hey, here's some things the NFL offers or the PA offers and here's what you need to take advantage of and then going out and taking advantage of those things.' Those have been very helpful to me whether it's an entrepreneurial course or a broadcast boot camp, whether its getting involved in community affairs or anything of that nature.

"The more that you extend yourself beyond the football world and get involved with your community and the people that make up the community and make that commitment to do things outside of football (the better)," said Light. "Hopefully that will serve me well."

In August of 2006, Junior Seau announced his retirement saying, "Im not retiring. I am graduating. Today is my graduation day. Retirement means that youll just go ahead and live on your laurels and surf all day in Oceanside. It aint going to happen."

But he had no mental picture of what life without football would look like. He wasn't ready to leave and -- four days later -- he signed with the Patriots and played until he was 40. And even then, the transition was ultimately impossible to endure.

We grow to care about these men. That some feel they have landed in life's discard pile before their hair has turned gray is as chilling as anything that shows up on a microscope slide in some laboratory.

On Monday, Light said, "When I finally close a chapter, I don't look back."

A clean break. And a new book. One with a happy ending. That's what we should all hope these men find.

Randy Moss: Roger Goodell is 'biggest reason' for NFL's problems

Randy Moss: Roger Goodell is 'biggest reason' for NFL's problems

With the NFL facing more PR issues by the day, Randy Moss has identified what he feels is wrong with a league that can’t seem to stay out of trouble.

In wake of the Josh Brown situation, which saw the NFL blame the King County (Wash.) Sheriff’s Office for the lack of initial punishment given to the Giants kicker for domestic violence, Moss said on ESPN’s Sunday NFL Countdown that commissioner Roger Goodell is the league’s biggest problem. 

“[This is] a bad time to show up now, breast cancer awareness month where we’re supporting the women, and then you come up with this Josh Brown, where it doesn’t seem like we are supporting women,” Moss said. “I think the NFL needs to take a deep look. I think the owners are mad, and Roger Goodell, he is the biggest reason to all of this stuff that’s fallen downhill with the NFL. I have to agree with that.”

Brown was initially given a one-game suspension for violating the league’s conduct policy stemming from his 2015 fourth-degree domestic violence charge. On Friday, the 37-year-old was placed on the commissioner’s exempt list. 

Steelers know they'll have their hands full with Rob Gronkowski and Martellus Bennett


Steelers know they'll have their hands full with Rob Gronkowski and Martellus Bennett

PITTSBURGH – So far this season, Martellus Bennett and Rob Gronkowski have combined for 39 catches, 644 yards and five touchdowns. Making the numbers that much more impressive is the fact the numbers were rolled up with Gronk inactive for two games and fairly useless in another thanks to his hamstring injury.

Will the Steelers slow the roll of Robellus Grennetski?

Hard to imagine. As Ray Fittipaldo of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette points out, Gronk alone has tuned up the Steelers with 26 receptions for 403 yards and seven touchdowns in six meetings.

Fittipaldo explored the strategies the Steelers defense may unveil Sunday afternoon when the Patriots and Steelers get going. He also pointed out that the return of linebacker Ryan Shazier after a three week layoff and injuries for safeties Mike Mitchell and Robert Golden may put Pittsburgh at a disadvantage.

Said Shazier: “They have the tandem they want at tight end. Now they can use tight ends the way they want. You have to respect everyone on the field. Both of them are good blockers, good pass threats and great at running after the catch.”

Steelers defensive coordinator Keith Butler said Pittsburgh will alter its approaches.

“We have to be able to play more than one defense,” Butler said. “They’re very good and they’ll pick you apart if they can figure out what you’re doing. We just have to execute the defense more than anything else. If we can do that … that’s been our problem for the most part. Some of the things that went on last week, we missed some things we should have made mentally.”

What “went on last week” was a 30-15 loss to the Dolphins.

Pittsburgh hasn’t been a big-play group so far -- eight sacks and three picks -- nor have they seen a gauntlet of great quarterbacks in the first six games. 

Interestingly, their losses have been to Ryan Tannehill and rookie Carson Wentz, probably the two quarterbacks one would figure Pittsburgh would do best against.
Between a smoking hot Brady and a can’t-be-stopped tight end tandem, there’s probably not a lot Pittsburgh can do aside from hoping for an off day.

Said linebacker Arthur Moats hopefully: “You have to continue to mix it up against (Gronkowski). You can’t give him the same look over and over. He has success on guys like that. If we disrupt him, and rush Brady and speed up his clock, I definitely think that will help out.”

In theory, perhaps. In practice? We’ll see.