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NFL star Junior Seau suffered from brain disease

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NFL star Junior Seau suffered from brain disease

Junior Seau, one of the NFL's best and fiercest players for two decades, suffered from a degenerative brain disease often associated with repeated blows to the head when he committed suicide last May, the National Institutes of Health said in a study released Thursday.

The NIH, based in Bethesda, Md., said Seau's brain revealed abnormalities consistent with chronic traumatic encephalopathy or CTE. It said that the study included unidentified brains, one of which was Seau's, and that the findings on Seau were similar to autopsies of people ``with exposure to repetitive head injuries.''

Seau's family requested the analysis of his brain.

The 43-year-old star linebacker played for 20 NFL seasons with San Diego, Miami and New England before retiring in 2009. He died of a self-inflicted shotgun wound.

He 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.

``I was not surprised after learning a little about CTE that he had it,'' Seau's 23-year-old son Tyler said. ``He did play so many years at that level. I was more just kind of angry I didn't do something more and have the awareness to help him more, and now it is too late.

``I don't think any of us were aware of the side effects that could be going on with head trauma until he passed away. We didn't know his behavior was from head trauma.''

That behavior, according to Tyler Seau and Junior's ex-wife Gina, included wild mood swings, irrationality, forgetfulness, insomnia and depression.

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 Famer members are among the players who have done so.

Seau is not the first former NFL player who killed himself, then was found to have CTE. Dave Duerson and Ray Easterling are the others.

``He emotionally detached himself and would kind of `go away' for a little bit,'' Tyler Seau said. ``And then the depression and things like that. It started to progressively get worse.''

He hid it well in public, they said. But not when he was with family or close friends.

Dr. Russell Lonser, who oversaw the study, said Seau's brain was ``independently evaluated by multiple experts, in a blind fashion.''

``We had the opportunity to get multiple experts involved in a way they wouldn't be able to directly identify his tissue even if they knew he was one of the individuals studied,'' he said.

The National Football League, in an email to the AP, said: ``We appreciate the Seau family's cooperation with the National Institutes of Health. The finding underscores the recognized need for additional research to accelerate a fuller understanding of CTE.

``The NFL, both directly and in partnership with the NIH, Centers for Disease Control and other leading organizations, is committed to supporting a wide range of independent medical and scientific research that will both address CTE and promote the long-term health and safety of athletes at all levels.''

NFL teams have given a $30 million research grant to the NIH.

Before shooting himself, Duerson, a former Chicago Bears defensive back, left a note asking that his brain be studied for signs of trauma. His family filed a wrongful-death suit against the NFL, claiming the league didn't do enough to prevent or treat the concussions that severely damaged his brain.

Easterling played safety for the Falcons in the 1970s. After his career, he suffered from dementia, depression and insomnia, according to his wife, Mary Ann. He committed suicide last April.

Mary Ann Easterling is among the plaintiffs who have sued the NFL.

``It was important to us to get to the bottom of this, the truth,'' Gina Seau said, ``and now that it has been conclusively determined from every expert that he had obviously had it, CTE, we just hope it is taken more seriously.

``You can't deny it exists, and it is hard to deny there is a link between head trauma and CTE. There's such strong evidence correlating head trauma and collisions and CTE.''

Tyler Seau played football through high school and for two years in college. He says he has no symptoms of brain trauma.

Gina Seau's son Jake, now a high school junior, played football for two seasons but has switched to lacrosse and has been recruited to play at Duke.

``Lacrosse is really his sport and what he is passionate about,'' she said. ``He is a good football player and probably could continue. But especially now watching what his dad went through, he says, `Why would I risk lacrosse for football?'

``I didn't have to have a discussion with him after we saw what Junior went through.''

Her 12-year-old son, Hunter, has shown no interest in playing football.

``That's fine with me,'' she said.

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In talking 2018 NFL draft, Doug Williams actually explained Redskins' free agency

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USA TODAY Sports

In talking 2018 NFL draft, Doug Williams actually explained Redskins' free agency

The Redskins spent modestly in 2018 free agency, and plenty of fans thought the team should have shelled out much bigger bucks. Talking with sources around the Ashburn facility, a prevaling notion became clear that the Washington brass believed they had a strong team in 2017, but they lost their chance to compete because of injuries. 

Well, the secret is out. Doug Williams said as much on Tuesday. 

"Coming out of Richmond last year, I liked this football team. I think we’ve got a tough football team, a smart football team. Some things you can’t control," Williams said Tuesday in a pre-draft media session. "We were very competitive up to a certain point, and when you have the injuries that we have, at a certain point, that competitive edge, you lose it because your best players are not playing."

Williams' words were true, and telling. 

First the true part:

  • In Washington's first five games of 2017, the team went 3-2. The Redskins only lost to eventual the Super Bowl champs Philadelphia and AFC West champs Kansas City. Washington only gave up more than 100 yards rushing once in those first five games, before rookie Jonathan Allen got hurt and the defense began to look much different. After Week 5, the Redskins only held one team under 100 yards rushing and finished the year dead last in rush defense.

Now the telling part:

  • The Redskins signed free agent WR Paul Richardson, and kept free agent LB Zach Brown. Beyond that, the team added inexpensive veterans in OLB Pernell McPhee and CB Orlando Scandrick. No splash moves, and recurring speculation that Washington was not offering top dollar to free agents. Bruce Allen acknowledged as much during NFL League Meetings when he explained that his team identified exactly how much they would offer free agents, their own and otherwise, and wouldn't go beyond that dollar figure. 

That means the focus of the offseason, at this point, is about this weekend's NFL Draft.

That also means the focus of the offseason, at this point, is not about Johnathan Hankins or any other free agent. 

"We’re going to deal with the draft now, and the second wave of free agents, if it’s somebody out there we feel like can help the Redskins,that’s what we’re going to do," Williams said. 

Throughout the offseason, Redskins fans wanted more action from their front office. It didn't happen, and Williams' basically explained why on Tuesday. The brass likes their team, and by default, expects better health and luck in 2018. 

When Williams talks about drafting the best player available, it's not just the typical NFL front office tripe. Right or wrong, the Redskins believe they have a team ready to compete in 2018, and any rookies that come in will only supplement that position.

"At the end of the day, I like this football team we’ve got. Like, last year when I walked out of camp, I thought we had a pretty good football team and I still feel the same way today," Williams said.

"At the end of the day, you get the best football player, and if that best football player is the guy that you want to plug and play, that’s all right. But if that’s the best football player that’s going to help your team overall, I think that’s the route you have to go."

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How the Caps won their first round series against the Columbus Blue Jackets

How the Caps won their first round series against the Columbus Blue Jackets

Things did not look good for the Capitals after two games.

Facing a 0-2 series hole after losing both games in Washington, it looked like it could be an early summer. The Caps were going to be the first team to ever lose a series in the playoffs to the Columbus Blue Jackets.

HOW DID THE CAPS WIN THEIR SERIES AGAINST COLUMBUS? FIND OUT HERE

But the Caps rallied.

Washington won the next four games and turned what looked like it would be another postseason disaster into a postseason triumph.

Only once in franchise history had the Caps rallied from a 0-2 deficit and only once had the Caps won four straight games to win a series. They managed both against the Blue Jackets.

Here's how the Caps were able to rally to a first-round victory over Columbus.