We all have demons. And we all deal with them in different ways. In sports, athletes are looked at as superhuman, a concept that some of those athletes internalize, creating an Atlas-like weight and burden that can push a person to their breaking point.
But, like everyone else, athletes are mere mortals who make mistakes. They have real emotions, real pain— and real struggle.
On Thursday, NBC Sports Bay Area and California released the fifth installment of “Sports Uncovered,” which features a never-before-heard interview with Oakland Raiders lineman Barret Robbins, who was mysteriously absent from Super Bowl XXXVII.
Robbins – in a South Florida prison at the time of the interview -- details the mental-health and addiction issues that caused him to leave the Raiders for Mexico just two days before Super Bowl XXXVII. That ultimately led to his benching for the game and eventually the end of a promising NFL career, and a post-football life filled by run-ins with the law.
"To think a man could have a $2 million house and $500,000 worth of cars, and whatever he wanted, but still be depressed and not be able to get out of bed. That tells you that depression is very powerful.” –Barret Robbins.
As it turns out, Robbins was misdiagnosed with depression, when he was actually manic depressive. And he coped with his mania with alcohol, marijuana. Robbins was also a steroid user. That, mixed with controversial coaching and personnel decisions and a toxic locker room culture, led Robbins to spiral and his career was never the same.
“I think of that guy that in his own way was crying out for help," Greg Papa said of Robbins on the Sports Uncovered podcast. "But no one either knew how, or just didn’t. He just didn’t get the help that he deserved, that he needed."
The former Oakland Raiders lineman draws parallels to former Seahawks wide receiver Josh Gordon, who has dealt with substance abuse and mental health problems his entire career.
Gordon was taken in the second round of the 2012 Supplemental Draft by the Cleveland Browns and appeared to be on the fast track as a big threat to opposing defenses. But, he was indefinitely suspended by the NFL for his fourth violation of substance abuse during the 2014 season and was unable to play for the next three seasons. He was reinstated midway through the 2017 season after rehab. In September 2018, he was traded to the New England Patriots. After he was facing another suspension from the NFL in December 2018, Gordon announced he was stepping away from football to "focus on his mental health" prior to returning in August 2019. Following a knee injury, the Patriots put Gordon on injured reserve in November 2019 and was claimed by the Seattle Seahawks. In five games, Gordon caught seven passes for 139 yards. But on December 16th, 2019, Gordon was suspended indefinitely for violating the NFL's policy on performance-enhancing drugs and substance abuse, his fifth suspension for violating the policy. He was suspended indefinitely.
"I just pray for him. I really believe that prayer works," Russell Wilson said when Gordon was suspended in 2019. I really believe that-- relationships and friendships work, and supporting what we all go through. We all have stuff. We all have things that we go through.”
As it turns out, Gordon’s brother passed away in November 2019, which, according to Gordon’s attorney, was the reason behind the lapse.
But since that time, he has realized how important it is for him to take the right steps, do what’s proper and understand how to manage these issues. He’s installed the right team around him to make sure he’s on the right path. He understands he’s been given every chance. He looks forward to making the most of this. -- Gordon's attorney Adam Kenner
According to Tom Pelissero, Gordon officially applied to be reinstated into the NFL on Thursday, June 18.
Russell Wilson could use another deep threat option and Gordon could be that guy.
The wide receiver has even signaled he’d be willing to return to Seattle in his Instagram posts.
While the Raiders decision-making and environment sent Robbins into a spiral, the Seahawks stability could just be what Gordon needs. Pete Carroll has developed a culture that players would run through brick walls for. Russell Wilson preaches mental conditioning. And both have mental health initiatives that could assist in Gordon’s road to recovery and ability to stay on course.
In fact, while some may disagree, there’d be NO BETTER place for Gordon than with the Seahawks.
They need each other right now.
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