http://www.mercurynews.com/49ers/ci_...ource=autofeedGary Plummer hopes the death of his former teammate Junior Seau sparks a change in the way the NFL sends its players back into society.
"There is no exit strategy from the NFL," Plummer told this newspaper from his San Diego home Thursday. "It's: 'You're done.' You don't even get an apple and a road map."
The former linebacker played beside Seau for four seasons on the San Diego Chargers before Plummer joined the 1994 49ers' Super Bowl-winning team.
On Thursday, Plummer, 52, said he's doing "terrible" a day after Seau's death, which has been ruled a suicide by the San Diego County medical examiner's office. He hopes it brings awareness to the struggles of athletes whose lives so suddenly change upon retirement. Specifically, Plummer wants all departing players to receive mandatory counseling so they can cope with life after football -- something with which Seau apparently struggled, Plummer noted.
"You can grow up and live your childhood dream and be a hometown hero and then feel, 'Is this all there is?' when it's over," Plummer said.
Seau's family has decided to allow researchers to study his brain for evidence of damage as the result of concussions, Chargers chaplain Shawn Mitchell told the Los Angeles Times on Thursday night.
Mitchell said the family came to the decision to allow Seau's brain to be studied "to help other individuals down the road."
Plummer, a former Cal star, played professionally for 15 seasons, starting with the Oakland Invaders of the USFL from 1983-85. He played with the Chargers from 1986-93 and the 49ers from 1994-97. Plummer estimated he endured 1,000 concussions over his career, which he acknowledges is a startling number.
Said Plummer: "In the 1990s, I did a concussion seminar. They said a Grade 3 concussion meant you were knocked out, and a Grade 1 meant you were seeing stars after a hit, which made me burst out in laughter. As a middle linebacker in the NFL, if you don't have five of these (Grade 1 effects) each game, you were inactive the next game.
"Junior played for 20 years. That's five concussions a game, easily. How many in his career then? That's over 1,500 concussions. I know that's startling, but I know it's true. I had over 1,000 in my 15 years. I felt the effects of it. I felt depression going on throughout my divorce. Junior went through it with his divorce."
Since leaving the 49ers broadcast booth a year ago, Plummer has been enjoying retirement, and he typically saw Seau six times a year, including at a charity golf tournament two weeks ago.
Here are some other insights from Plummer:
"The NFL has made great strides in having an independent evaluator on the sidelines for concussions. What needs to happen now is, and Junior is a perfect example: You're judged not just on the way you played the game but the most revered characteristic is how tough you are. You're taught that you need to be a tough guy, and not just physically."
"Junior obviously had been facing demons for at least 18 months. That's no longer speculation. People can take pills, run their car off the road, and that's a cry for help. He was crying out for help. Yet he was too proud to ask for it."
"What needs to happen is mandatory counseling. In 15 years as a middle linebacker, I never would have thought of seeing a counselor. I saw one in my divorce, and I just called my counselor today. It can't be optional, because macho players are taught to be invincible, and they're not going to do it. Make it mandatory.
"When we're forced out, try to give us tools (for) what we're going to face. I've talked to former teammates who've struggled mightily. Not just within a year of being out but several years. One guy felt he was wandering aimlessly.
"It needs to come to light that this was not an isolated incident."
When they saw each other last month at the golf tournament, Plummer asked Seau how he was doing, and after an upbeat response, Plummer pulled Seau off to the side to ask again.
Plummer said Seau gave the same response: "Good, really."
It's that fear of showing vulnerability that Plummer hopes other NFL players learn to overcome.