One of the most underrated pieces of one of the greatest defenses in NFL history has passed away. . .and, sadly, it was by his own hand.
Former Chicago Bears safety Dave Duerson, who was a part of the great 1985 Chicago Bears defense that went 15-1 and crushed the New England Patriots in Super Bowl XX, was found dead in his home on Thursday of a self-inflicted gunshot wound to the chest. He was 50 years of age.
Duerson was a two-time All-American at Notre Dame before being drafted by the Bears in the third round of the 1983 NFL Draft. Even though he was a part of the great 1985 Bears' defense, his best individual season may have come in 1986, when he set what was then a record for sacks by a defensive back with seven, as well as intercepting six passes. He was also named the NFL's Man of the Year for 1987 (the same award that Vikings' safety Madieu Williams won this season). He also went on to win a second Super Bowl ring with the New York Giants in 1990.
With the backdrop of the labor negotiations that are ongoing with the National Football League, Duerson's death is likely to put a focus back onto potential traumatic brain injuries and their lingering effects on players after they retire from the game. Duerson had sent a text message to members of his family prior to his death saying that he wanted his brain to be examined after he passed on, emphasizing that he particularly wanted the left side to be examined. Chris Nowinski, the former WWE wrestler who is now the co-director of the Center for the Study of Traumatic Encephalopathy at Boston University, has said that Duerson's brain will be studied for the potential presence of Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy (CTE), which is more commonly referred to as being "punch drunk."
With cases such as Duerson's (potentially) as well as those of former players like Philadelphia Eagles' safety Andre Waters and Pittsburgh Steelers center Mike Webster, it does make it a bit hard to see the merits of an 18-game regular season that would serve no purpose other than to do more damage to the brains of NFL players. We have a tendency to forget players after they leave the NFL, but they still have families to support and lives to lead once they leave the game. . .sadly, it generally takes something like this to make a lot of us remember that, and it generally passes without anything being done to change things.
I really don't have a side in the labor negotiations at this point. . .but, in my opinion, one of the top priorities has to be the after-career care of the people that the NFL has built an empire on the backs of.