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Old 09-28-2010, 06:25 PM   #1
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Default Despite resources, players reluctant to seek help

Despite resources, players reluctant to seek help


By Jason Cole, Yahoo! Sports
Sep 28, 12:11 am EDT




From the great blocks that once made Barret Robbins a Pro Bowler to the awful binges of alcohol and drugs that led to him being shot in the chest by police, agent Drew Pittman has had a front-row seat to the issues that have impacted his friend and client, and kept Robbins in a correctional or treatment facility for much of the past seven years.

After more than 15 years of sitting in that seat, Pittman has come to one intensely sad conclusion:

“The moments when Barret really sounds like he’s at his best are when he’s incarcerated,” Pittman said of the currently jailed former lineman. “He has a schedule he has to live by, they tell him what to do and they make him take his meds.”

Robbins, best known for disappearing just two days before the Oakland Raiders’ appearance in Super Bowl XXXVII and diagnosed with bipolar disorder, is no longer some athlete fed by the Superman complex that lives deep inside so many. He’s just a man, troubled and, in some respects, frail. Help isn’t offered; it’s required.

It’s the kind of help that might have kept Denver Broncos wide receiver Kenny McKinley from apparently killing himself last week. Like so many others in the NFL, it appears McKinley didn’t seek assistance.

“In all my time playing and in 10 years of working with players since I retired, I can’t remember one guy, not one, who asked for help,” said Robert Bailey, who spent 11 seasons with six different teams as a defensive back and special teams ace and now is a marketing agent working with Drew Rosenhaus.


In the case of McKinley, whose funeral was in suburban Atlanta on Monday, authorities believe he shot himself in the head because he was depressed after his second straight season-ending knee surgery.

In today’s NFL, ample services are offered to help players cope with their issues – financial, family or otherwise. The league provides those under the umbrella of its player development program. It includes free counseling sessions and trained staff people who are around every team on a regular or semi-regular basis. The NFL Players Association hands out cards with the number of a helpline. There are life skills classes, both mandatory and voluntary, taught on a regular basis.

Yet the league is littered with tragic stories, including All-Pros like Robbins and unknowns such as McKinley. There were former first-round picks such as Alonzo Spellman and Dimitrius Underwood, who have struggled severely with bipolar disorder. Former quarterback Art Schlichter was addicted to gambling.

Some, such as Miami Dolphins running back Ricky Williams and former Pro Bowl punter Greg Montgomery, get help and eventually find a solution. Many more succumb to the intense pressure that exists in the NFL.

“For me, it wasn’t hard to seek help, but I think the hardest part is it’s difficult to be introspective in this sport,” said Williams, who has openly discussed his bouts with anxiety and depression. “This environment isn’t conducive to that. There are all these external factors coming at you and you think that’s what’s affecting you. … I had a chance to really sit down and say, ‘It’s not external, it’s me. There’s something I need to fix.’

“The nature of the job is inhumane. It’s the most stressful job I can think of. There are jobs that are more dangerous, but the pressure to perform every day is intense, so it’s easy to project that the pressure comes from outside and that the problem isn’t you. Imagine that you’re at work every day and someone is following you around with a camera the whole time and then you watch yourself as other people critique what you’re doing.”

Or, in McKinley’s case, the pressure that goes with not performing. In two seasons after being a fifth-round draft pick in 2009, McKinley had scarcely played because of knee injuries. On Saturday, the Broncos held a service for him and McKinley’s father recalled how his son, when he was just five, had once made a business card out of an index card that read, “Kenny McKinley, football player.”

That type of self-imposed pressure may lead to trouble down the line.

“So much of what we try to do is about developing an identity outside of being a football player,” said Williams, who sought counseling during his rookie season with the New Orleans Saints. “If your identity [is] wrapped up in you being a football player and you’re in a sport where so many guys are replaceable, what’s going to happen when you don’t have football?”

Even more, there is a gladiator mentality. To show weakness is antithetical.

“You don’t ever want to show that chink in the armor, that you’re somehow vulnerable,” Bailey said.

Conversely, “I would say that we’re no different than what exists in general society,” said Adolpho Birch, the NFL vice president of player development. “People have a reticence to engaging in mental health therapy.”

After helping Denver teammates and McKinley’s family deal with the immediate issues, Birch said the league eventually will examine the situation in hopes of finding out what else could have been done. Over the past decade, the league has tried to change the perception of counseling. Having counselors around teams regularly was one step the league took so that players would be more comfortable with them.

“You want counselors to get to know players in a friendly way, not just as someone who is around when things are going bad,” Birch said.

Even then, recognizing problems is difficult. In 1999, Underwood was a first-round pick by the Minnesota Vikings who went AWOL during training camp. He was cut and later claimed on waivers by Miami. During the Dolphins’ bye week in September 1999, Underwood tried to kill himself, putting a knife to his throat. Less than 18 months later, after being released by the Dolphins and signed by the Dallas Cowboys, Underwood again attempted to take his own life by walking in front of oncoming traffic on a busy South Florida roadway.

Underwood was tormented by visions of the apocalypse. He used to write notes discussing the end of the world on pieces of paper the size of postage stamps. When he was in a normal state, he could be engaging in conversation. He was funny and intelligent. He also exuded physical confidence and had extraordinary talent.

“You’re talking about people who are told that they can overcome anything, do anything, if they work at it,” said Pittman, whose partner, Craig Domann, represented Underwood. “It’s not just in athletes. You see the same thing in lots of people: doctors, lawyers, bankers. Athletes think they’re stronger than anyone else. Doctors think they’re smarter.”

Moreover, even suggesting that someone get help is difficult.

“I know there were guys I played with who needed help and I’m sure that, privately, the team pulled them aside and took care of them,” Bailey said.

Williams said the problem runs deeper.

“It’s hard for loved ones to say something because they’re probably getting something from us and don’t want to hurt that relationship. For teammates, it’s hard to put a hand on somebody’s shoulder and say, ‘Hey, I think you need help,’ ” he said.

Even if the help is there.

“All the player would have to do is pick up a phone and call the number on the card the [union] gives out and say, ‘I don’t know, but something ain’t right’ and he’d get plenty of help,” Pittman said. “But that means he’d have to admit to himself, ‘You mean I’m not tough enough to handle this?’ ”

Many outside observers like to think players’ financial compensation makes up for all the pressures they endure. Sometimes, however, a lot of money for someone in their 20s has just the opposite effect. It adds to already enormous pressure.

“I think when I really understood it is when I was talking to one of my players and we talked about how this is probably the only profession where you walk into the building and you say hi to somebody who, once they walk away and go to their office, is going to look at film trying to find somebody who is better than you,” Pittman said. “Teams spend millions of dollars every year looking for somebody who is better than you. Could you imagine going to work like that every day, thinking that somebody you worked with was doing nothing but trying to replace you?”

That’s to say nothing of the usual pressures that go with life, such as the player Pittman represents whom he has had trouble keeping track of lately.

Pittman won’t identify the player, but describes him as one of the many fringe players who get churned around the league. Aside from the tension of keeping a job that could be lost simply with a missed tackle on a punt return, the player recently had a child with a girlfriend who has proved to be flighty.

The pressure proved to be too much for the player, who asked for his release in the offseason. Pittman didn’t find out about it until he called the team. The player didn’t return calls for weeks.

“He’s dealing with a lot. He thought that the best way to raise his child was to be an NFL player and then he discovered it was too hard to do that, to try to hang onto that dream,” said Pittman, a touch of concern evident in his voice.

There’s a reason for that. Just as before, Pittman hasn’t heard from the player in a while.

And that’s cause for stress.




http://sports.yahoo.com/nfl/news?slu...kinghelp092610



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Old 09-28-2010, 06:33 PM   #2
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That awful font has got to go!
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Old 09-28-2010, 07:17 PM   #3
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Old 09-28-2010, 09:07 PM   #4
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Sad stories.
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Old 09-29-2010, 06:50 AM   #5
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That awful font has got to go!
It is terrible.
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Old 09-29-2010, 06:59 AM   #6
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Why all the Cambria hate in here? This should make you all feel better....

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Old 09-29-2010, 08:10 AM   #7
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Typical mane

The font has to go. Seriously, that is your first thought. Man, I know this place is a cold, over charged machismo hating place, but the font has to go

People here are so quick to judge, criticize, and Hate on players. And, this just freakin proves you have no idea what it takes to walk in those shoes. It is why I always say it takes MENTAL talent to play in this league.

I knew Alonzo Spellman. He was the craziest person I knew before I got into mental health counseling. He was just so talented physically, he was unblockable when he cared. The problem was he did not care. Football was simply a release for him and when it became more stressful to play than to release stress he simply quit.

Whew, this place just drains me when I see this. So, quick to tear others down and so quick to not care at all.
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Old 09-29-2010, 08:24 AM   #8
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Its really too bad that this happens to some players. In our eyes, they are living the dream. What's the old saying "be careful what you wish for because it might come true."? Living the dream can become a real nightmare for the players who struggle mentally and emotionally with the pressure. I'm glad the NFL has resources for these guys, but the players have to be strong enough to admit they need help, and some players just aren't that strong.
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Old 09-29-2010, 08:31 AM   #9
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Originally Posted by Mediator12 View Post
Typical mane

The font has to go. Seriously, that is your first thought. Man, I know this place is a cold, over charged machismo hating place, but the font has to go

People here are so quick to judge, criticize, and Hate on players. And, this just freakin proves you have no idea what it takes to walk in those shoes. It is why I always say it takes MENTAL talent to play in this league.

I knew Alonzo Spellman. He was the craziest person I knew before I got into mental health counseling. He was just so talented physically, he was unblockable when he cared. The problem was he did not care. Football was simply a release for him and when it became more stressful to play than to release stress he simply quit.

Whew, this place just drains me when I see this. So, quick to tear others down and so quick to not care at all.
Didn't he get into martial arts as well?
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Old 09-29-2010, 08:35 AM   #10
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Didn't he get into martial arts as well?
I have no idea. He disappeared off the face of the planet for awhile, just like the article says happens to players all the time. It is bad when they will not even call their agents back!

Zo was a great guy, but he really needed a ton of help. He had the longest arms I have ever seen and he could use that leverage all day long on OL. He was a monster when he wanted to be.
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Old 09-29-2010, 08:43 AM   #11
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I have no idea. He disappeared off the face of the planet for awhile, just like the article says happens to players all the time. It is bad when they will not even call their agents back!

Zo was a great guy, but he really needed a ton of help. He had the longest arms I have ever seen and he could use that leverage all day long on OL. He was a monster when he wanted to be.
That's to bad, and in your opinion why do people do that.

Disapear off the face of the earth? is it mental or some kind of disorder?
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Old 09-29-2010, 08:45 AM   #12
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People here are so quick to judge, criticize, and Hate on players. And, this just freakin proves you have no idea what it takes to walk in those shoes. It is why I always say it takes MENTAL talent to play in this league.
Some people are simply unable to stop thinking about themselves all the time for even a second. They can not accept that other people in this world are fundamentally different from themselves. So - when they read something like this (or the stuff about McKinley), they can only think of what THEY would have done. "I would seek help." "I would never leave my child alone in this world." "I would never be so selfish." etc etc etc. Well - it's not about YOU all the time. Drives me crazy.
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Old 09-29-2010, 09:05 AM   #13
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That's to bad, and in your opinion why do people do that.

Disapear off the face of the earth? is it mental or some kind of disorder?
People do it for many reasons. In his case, he was a diagnosed Bipolar, but I think he had some other factors in there after having been trained to spot things later.

It really comes down to trust. People like Zo had friends, but he did not trust anyone, especially his own family. People like that build walls around themselves and never really let anyone inside those walls. Over time, it wears you down being alone. We are not designed to be alone. We are designed to be in community with each other.
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Old 09-29-2010, 09:15 AM   #14
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People do it for many reasons. In his case, he was a diagnosed Bipolar, but I think he had some other factors in there after having been trained to spot things later.

It really comes down to trust. People like Zo had friends, but he did not trust anyone, especially his own family. People like that build walls around themselves and never really let anyone inside those walls. Over time, it wears you down being alone. We are not designed to be alone. We are designed to be in community with each other.
I like talking about stuff like this because I had trouble with ADD as a kid.

How does being alone wear you down? or what does it affect?
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Old 09-29-2010, 09:27 AM   #15
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That awful font has got to go!
So edit it, you ahve the ability.
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Old 09-29-2010, 09:31 AM   #16
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I like talking about stuff like this because I had trouble with ADD as a kid.

How does being alone wear you down? or what does it affect?
People thrive around people, and wear down with no contact. This is very different than personality though. Some people are introverts and recharge by being alone. However, even extreme introverts need physical contact with people. People who are isolated live shorter, less productive, and more stressful lives.

The internet does allow people a release, but not like physically being around people does. The Omane is an excellent healthy release for some people, but it is very brutal and toxic at times. I know I have to take breaks from it when I am not in a good mood, or I will respond in kind We all have breaking points.

The point of this article is to try and give people SOME perspective of what it is like to walk in these players shoes. It is not what 98% of people on here think it is. The whole point is to show how stressful being an NFL player is and how poor of an environment it is to seek help. Instead of seeing counseling as help, players seem to think of it as a weakness.

The irony is, they get instant feedback on their practices and games from coaches. Yet, that is "help" and going to a counselor is "weakness" Good Counseling is all about helping people make sense of their unique world and giving them tools to solve their problems on their own. So many of these NFL players have NEVER had to deal with mental Stress on this level and have NO IDEA how to handle it. Some turn to alcohol and drugs, some turn to women, some turn to gambling, etc. They will find an outlet for their stress, and it is usually a real bad decision.

That is why I think finding high character players who know how to handle this stress is important for NFL teams. It is why INDY regularly turns over 35% of its roster a year and still keeps winning games. Their core is completely high character and they keep finding average guys with high football character to fill in the role playing positions.
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Old 09-29-2010, 09:56 AM   #17
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People thrive around people, and wear down with no contact. This is very different than personality though. Some people are introverts and recharge by being alone. However, even extreme introverts need physical contact with people. People who are isolated live shorter, less productive, and more stressful lives.

The internet does allow people a release, but not like physically being around people does. The Omane is an excellent healthy release for some people, but it is very brutal and toxic at times. I know I have to take breaks from it when I am not in a good mood, or I will respond in kind We all have breaking points.

The point of this article is to try and give people SOME perspective of what it is like to walk in these players shoes. It is not what 98% of people on here think it is. The whole point is to show how stressful being an NFL player is and how poor of an environment it is to seek help. Instead of seeing counseling as help, players seem to think of it as a weakness.

The irony is, they get instant feedback on their practices and games from coaches. Yet, that is "help" and going to a counselor is "weakness" Good Counseling is all about helping people make sense of their unique world and giving them tools to solve their problems on their own. So many of these NFL players have NEVER had to deal with mental Stress on this level and have NO IDEA how to handle it. Some turn to alcohol and drugs, some turn to women, some turn to gambling, etc. They will find an outlet for their stress, and it is usually a real bad decision.

That is why I think finding high character players who know how to handle this stress is important for NFL teams. It is why INDY regularly turns over 35% of its roster a year and still keeps winning games. Their core is completely high character and they keep finding average guys with high football character to fill in the role playing positions.
Great insight, thanks.
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Old 09-29-2010, 10:12 AM   #18
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I also think people really have little idea of the stress that is on these kids. Their pressures are nowhere near the average Omaner. Yet, we love to go after them. We love to wax theory and hyperbole on how it SHOULD BE. The problem is most people live in a completely different world than they do.

The kids party, womanize, DUI, and all kinds of other stuff because they need an outlet for their stress. So, the kids who are already inclined to do just that coming out of college are going to be hard to reach, despite being insanely good Football players. I root for these kids to make it work, but the guys who show the same behaviors over and over (Brandon Marshall, Adam Jones, Chris Henry) scare the crap out of me because I Know that 1 in 20 will turn it around. I hope it will be everyone of them, because I know players like them who never make it and their life becomes a living hell. It is much worse to have something wonderful and lose it than to never have it at all.

Football is a venue. It is supposed to be an entertainment. However, it is one of the most stressful Jobs on the planet. And, it is done by kids with little to no preparation for how to handle the off the field aspects. The NFL tries real hard to help these guys, but the environment is still nowhere near what it needs to be to truly help them. The new CBA should have some more help for rookie players and a much lower wage scale for rookies in order to curb expectations on these young men.
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Old 09-29-2010, 10:18 AM   #19
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I also think people really have little idea of the stress that is on these kids. Their pressures are nowhere near the average Omaner. Yet, we love to go after them. We love to wax theory and hyperbole on how it SHOULD BE. The problem is most people live in a completely different world than they do.

The kids party, womanize, DUI, and all kinds of other stuff because they need an outlet for their stress. So, the kids who are already inclined to do just that coming out of college are going to be hard to reach, despite being insanely good Football players. I root for these kids to make it work, but the guys who show the same behaviors over and over (Brandon Marshall, Adam Jones, Chris Henry) scare the crap out of me because I Know that 1 in 20 will turn it around. I hope it will be everyone of them, because I know players like them who never make it and their life becomes a living hell. It is much worse to have something wonderful and lose it than to never have it at all.

Football is a venue. It is supposed to be an entertainment. However, it is one of the most stressful Jobs on the planet. And, it is done by kids with little to no preparation for how to handle the off the field aspects. The NFL tries real hard to help these guys, but the environment is still nowhere near what it needs to be to truly help them. The new CBA should have some more help for rookie players and a much lower wage scale for rookies in order to curb expectations on these young men.
You nailed it here, my new fav poster.
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Old 09-29-2010, 01:40 PM   #20
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I also think people really have little idea of the stress that is on these kids. Their pressures are nowhere near the average Omaner. Yet, we love to go after them. We love to wax theory and hyperbole on how it SHOULD BE. The problem is most people live in a completely different world than they do.

The kids party, womanize, DUI, and all kinds of other stuff because they need an outlet for their stress. So, the kids who are already inclined to do just that coming out of college are going to be hard to reach, despite being insanely good Football players. I root for these kids to make it work, but the guys who show the same behaviors over and over (Brandon Marshall, Adam Jones, Chris Henry) scare the crap out of me because I Know that 1 in 20 will turn it around. I hope it will be everyone of them, because I know players like them who never make it and their life becomes a living hell. It is much worse to have something wonderful and lose it than to never have it at all.

Football is a venue. It is supposed to be an entertainment. However, it is one of the most stressful Jobs on the planet. And, it is done by kids with little to no preparation for how to handle the off the field aspects. The NFL tries real hard to help these guys, but the environment is still nowhere near what it needs to be to truly help them. The new CBA should have some more help for rookie players and a much lower wage scale for rookies in order to curb expectations on these young men.
The problem, as I see it, is these people either know ultimate success or ultimate failure. Either you make it in the NFL and you make a few hundred grand a year living as everyone's idol (even if just friends and family) and you have it all or you don't make the NFL roster and you come screaming down to earth. These people who were worshipped all through high school and college were never mentally prepared for these failures. They never considered the alternative to NFL as the same focus that allows them to perfect their craft to NFL standards also precludes them from considering and preparing for alternatives. As long as athletes are worshipped and led by the hand through all their developmental years, how can we expect them to make responsible decisions at the NFL level when the floor falls out beneath them? What else can you expect when guys are in the NFL and attended college yet can barely read and speak at, say, an 8th grader level?

The environment is there but they can't be led by the hand forever. One day they're going to leave the NFL. Whether they schwack themselves while signed by a team or afterwards, if they can't deal with it then they'll always be a risk to themselves. Responsibility starts long before anyone ever gets drafted and many players missed that bus.
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