Patriots

Curran: Seau was a transcendent Patriot

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Curran: Seau was a transcendent Patriot

What did Junior Seau mean to the Patriots?

In 2008 and 2009, his on-field relevance diminished, the Patriots would still use a game-day roster spot so that he'd be in uniform on their sidelines to lend stability and leadership.

"I havent coached too many that are any more passionate than Junior is," Bill Belichick said in October 2009 after signing the 40-year-old back to lend stability to an immature defense. "I think thats good for all of us. Its good for him, its good for all the players, its good for the coaches and its good for the team. He brings a lot of positive energy and toughness, so those things are all good."

Seau was nearly 41 when his final NFL season ended. He'd been in the NFL for 20 years, nearly half his life.

It's not illogical to wonder today if leaving professional football led to Seau becoming untethered. it was a profession around which he'd built his identity. Then, quietly, the vocation that gave his life meaning and gave him an avenue to have an impact had ended.

Junior Seau was a soon-to-be Hall of Famer. He was an icon. A linebacking legend. It appears that transitioning to being Junior Seau, former player, was exceedingly hard.

He said in 2009 when he re-signed with the Patriots that he was ready for a post-football life.

"Its not tough to leave the game," he said on a conference call. "Theres such a great lifestyle that you work so long for to enjoy. Im not going to cry about cutting up oranges and apples and packing a cooler and going to a football game, my sons football game, or my daughters volleyball games and heading home and surfing for three hours. Having a tuna sandwich and playing the ukelele. Theres nothing bad about that so I did not miss it. Its just part of my life. I love life challenges and I live for those moments. I live for those moments. This is a challenge. I cant forecast whats going to happen, just give me a helmet and well work on it."

The same day Seau was saying that, Tom Brady was noting that when he walked in at 6:45 a.m., "Junior was already in there in like a full sweat. He hasnt changed at all."

And maybe that cuts to the heart of it. The change - despite what Seau said - was too hard to make.

Some players adjust with ease. For some it's harder. Some never do and the number of ex-NFL players who have taken their own lives in recent years is sad, tragic and sobering.

It causes us to question so much.

Does the willing bodily sacrifice these men make leave them so diminished that depression follows?

Do the head-on collisions lead inevitably to chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE) and - in extreme cases - suicide?

Does society's hero worship by fans and media - and the fact that players accept it - make it impossible for some men to face their post-football lives without that?

Is the NFL complicit? Are we complicit? Would you, should you let your son play football given the way it apparently does to some men?

These are the questions that people who knew him as a football player wrestle with on the day Junior Seau killed himself.

Those who knew him better - family, friends, former teammates, coaches - wrestle with that but also with the loss of a man who had a transcendent personality, a gift.

"Before every game, you have to get your popcorn ready because you can't wait to hear those speeches, let alone see his face and the emotion that comes out," teammate Kyle Arrington said in 2009. "It's really indescribable how you can hear it in his voice -- the emotion, the passion, the hunger."

"We all gather up, and there is a silence in the room, and everybody is just looking at him," Myron Pryor said. "You're listening to him speak, and he's getting everyone going. There is a little chill down your back, a little sweat on your forehead."

Gronkowski advises Hayward to treat rehab like anything else -- dominate

Gronkowski advises Hayward to treat rehab like anything else -- dominate

FOXBORO -- Rob Gronkowski's never suffered a break like the one Gordon Hayward did on Tuesday night, but he has been through enough to know what lies ahead as the Celtics forward stares at a lengthy recovery period.

"I saw it. I mean, I wish him nothing but wellness," Gronkowski said on Wednesday. "Hopefully he heals ASAP. You never want to see that with a player in any sport. When my friend showed me that last night, you get that feeling in your body, like, your heart drops. I wish him well.

"I can't wait to see him back. I know he's going to bounce back. Being here in Boston, he's going to be a hard worker it feels like. I can't wait to see him back."

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Multiple back surgeries, a plate in his arm, a surgically-repaired ACL . . . Gronkowski has put in his share of rehabilitation work. Asked if he'd give Hayward any advice as he embarks on his road back to normalcy, Gronkowski's message was simple.

"Just go into rehab just like you go into anything else. Dominate it," Gronkowski said. "Come back when you feel ready. Come back when you're 100 percent . . . He wouldn't be where he is now if he wasn't a hard worker. I don't know the guy. Never met him. But it's not something you want to see as an athlete happen to anyone else."

Gronkowski acknowledged that in his experience, one of the biggest hurdles following an injury like that is the mental one. You quickly go from being a powerful athlete to a patient in need of help with even the smallest of tasks. 

"There is a big mental challenge, definitely, with that," Gronkowski explained. "It's not just not being able to be with your teammates and all that. It's outside of football, too. Because it takes away your whole life, going out like that . . . You can't do anything. You can't walk. You gotta have people do [things for you]. You get really frustrated. You just want the people around you to help you out and keep you in the best mindset throughout the whole process."

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Patriots-Falcons practice report: Gilmore, Rowe absent; Hogan added

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Patriots-Falcons practice report: Gilmore, Rowe absent; Hogan added

FOXBORO -- Chris Hogan only had one catch for 19 yards against the Jets. He very nearly had a second grab in the second quarter, but Tom Brady's throw was off the mark, and Hogan's ribs were exposed for rookie safety Marcus Maye to hammer. The pass fell incomplete and Hogan crumpled to the turf. 

He didn't leave the game, but Hogan did end up on Wednesday's injury report as a limited participant in practice due to a ribs injury. He was one of three players added to this week's injury report. Linebacker Elandon Roberts has an ankle injury and did not participate in Wednesday's workout. Guard Shaq Mason has a shoulder issue and was limited. 

Eric Rowe and Stephon Gilmore, neither of whom were spotted at the start of the session, did not participate.

Here's Wednesday's full practice participation/injury report for Sunday's Patriots-Falcons game:

NEW ENGLAND PATRIOTS

DID NOT PARTICIPATE
CB Stephon Gilmore (concussion/ankle)
LB Harvey Langi (back)
LB Elandon Roberts (ankle)
CB Eric Rowe (groin)

LIMITED PARTICIPATION
RB Rex Burkhead (ribs)
WR Chris Hogan (ribs)
G Shaq Mason (shoulder)

ATLANTA FALCONS

DID NOT PARTICIPATE
K Matt Bryant (back)

LIMITED PARTICIPATION
OLB Vic Beasley Jr. (hamstring)
LB Jermaine Grace (hamstring)
LB Deion Jones (quadricep)
DE Takk McKinley (shoulder)
LB Duke Riley (knee)
WR Mohamed Sanu (hamstring)
DL Courtney Upshaw (ankle/knee)