Bump & Run – Seau’s Tragic Passing, Shanahan Wearing Down & Free Agent Frenzies

Welcome to this week’s edition of Bump & Run where we will cover:

  • The Junior Seau Tragedy
  • The Softening of Shanahan
  • And Free Agent Desperation

The Tragic Passing of a Legend

Growing up, every football player my age wanted to be just like Junior Seau.  He was one of the hardest working players on the field, and one of the best individuals off it.  He spent most of his career with the Chargers, and whether you were a San Diego fan or not, everyone respected him as a player and an individual.

When he chose to end his life on May 2nd, 2012, the football world was in shock.  Here was a guy who seemingly had it all – on the field accomplishments and off the field love.  His method of suicide is eerily similar to that of Dave Duerson, who had sent a text message to his family, requesting that his brain be analyzed for Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy (CTE), prior to his suicide.  So far there has been no word on whether Seau sent similar requests to his family, but through this trying time, they are still deciding whether to allow his brain to be analyzed by the Boston University School of Medicine team that is heading up the research.

The brain is a funny thing – there’s nothing you can do to strengthen it, no matter how many hours you put into the gym.  The head trauma suffered by NFL players is enormous, not to mention the trauma suffered by players at younger ages who play football while their brains are still developing. Some symptoms take years to manifest, leaving doctors and researchers in a perpetual state of catch-up, often realizing the need for new safety precautions years and even decades after the problems have occurred.

There is no way to tell whether concussions or head trauma led to Seau’s decision to end his life, but we shouldn’t take his death lightly. In the same way that his illustrious career will be remembered, so should his passing. I think he deserves that much.

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Shanahan Shaken, Not Stirred

Mike Shanahan has reputations in many different areas around the league.  Despite this, everyone agrees that Shanahan is a guy who is set in his ways.  You can’t tell him what to do, and he’s not going to change his coaching style or methods to suit anyone – just ask Donovan McNabb.

The charm and perhaps the lucky socks of Robert Griffin III have seemingly changed that.  Shanahan’s claim that he will do whatever it takes make RG3 feel comfortable could go down in the record books as the first time Shanahan has ever uttered such a claim.  Whether this style adaptation is a true change of heart, or just a strategic move by a coach who perhaps sees the light at the end of the coaching tunnel is yet to be confirmed (we will know that as soon as the Redskins hit a dry spell), but for now, Griffin can bask in the comfort that few players have ever felt under the 59 year old coach’s tenure.

Free Agent Free for All

With the NFL draft barely two weeks old, the eyes of the football world now turn to the free agency market, where big names have already begun to move.  The frenzy to sign free agents usually peaks around the month or so surrounding the draft, as teams have the best idea of which holes need plugging, and whether they think they have the best chance to plug them in the draft or through free agency.  Now that the draft is over, free agency is the only option.  Often times, teams that go crazy for free agents this time of year tend to act like girls without a prom date the week before the event, swinging wild and hoping to run into a potential match.

Teams like the New England Patriots have been very active this offseason, both in the draft and in the free agent market.  The Patriots have picked up more receivers than they possibly have spots for, in addition to drafting no fewer than six defensive players.  Why do some teams have success during this frenzied time, while others remain mired in futility?

It all comes down to competition.  While it may seem unavoidable for some teams, signing a free agent with the belief that they will completely turn your team around is a mindset to avoid.  Instead, sign them with the intention of letting them compete for a spot on the team.  What this does is encourages the new free agent to work hard through camp and to set an example for the younger players, while keeping the morale for other players at the same position high, knowing that they still have a chance to fight for playing time.