Posts Tagged ‘Junior Seau’

The NFL draft begins Thursday and I am noticing I’m not really looking forward to it.

That’s an odd feeling in that I covered the draft as a professional more than a dozen times at either the professional or college level. And always made sure my Saturdays were clear to watch it prior to that well before this decade’s dumb three-day format.

Analyzing things, I can see why I’m not all that interested in the 2017 NFL draft.

That’s because this is the first draft in my lifetime in which my hometown doesn’t have an NFL team.

Not the least bit interested in who the Los Angeles Chargers pick. Geez, it is hard writing that city’s name before Chargers.

The Chargers belong to San Diego, not the smog clowns and silicone fakes of Los Angeles. The draft is really the first time a big NFL event happens in which the Chargers aren’t referred to as “San Diego Chargers.”

When Roger Goodell reads that phrase off the cue card as the Chargers make their first-round pick, it is a loud reminder to the football world that San Diego is no longer an NFL town.

Dean Spanos had ample opportunities to make it work in San Diego and didn’t have the big-boy leadership abilities to make it happen. Good riddance to him and his poorly run organization.

That is where we will miss the draft — mocking the Chargers for their sad first-round picks.

The lousy picks roll off the tongue easily — receiver Walker Gillette in 1970, running back Leon Burns in 1971, fullback Bo Matthews in 1974, cornerback Mossy Cade in 1984 (Google him to see what a total reject he is) and the biggest draft bust of all-time in quarterback Ryan Leaf in 1998.

There are many other busts — one of my favorites being receiver Craig “Buster” Davis in 2007. I called up Davis’ receivers coach at LSU while writing a profile story and got greeted with all kinds of criticisms of Davis’ desire, toughness and inability to stay healthy.

Guess what Davis was known for during his 26 total games over four seasons with the Chargers? Yep, low desire, no toughness, always injured.

During Davis’ second season, I already wrote song lyrics about him called “Wasted Draft Pick,” to the tune of Rod Stewart’s “Infatuation.”

Great pick, A.J. Smith! Might want to talk a player’s position coach before you select him.

Of course, there were superb first-round picks over the years too — defensive tackle Gary “Big Hands” Johnson in 1975, tight end Kellen Winslow in 1979, defensive end Leslie O’Neal in 1986, linebacker Junior Seau in 1990, running back LaDainian Tomlinson in 2001 and the great quarterback maneuver of 2004 when Eli Manning refused to play for the Chargers but Smith drafted him anyway before working out a trade with the New York Giants for Philip Rivers.

General manager Tom Telesco has fared well in the first round of the last three drafts with cornerback Jason Verrett, running back Melvin Gordon and defensive end Joey Bosa.

The Chargers select seventh this time around so they are positioned well to land another good talent.

But there will be a different feeling when Telesco makes his pick.

You see, these aren’t the San Diego Chargers anymore. So it no longer is a big deal if the team scores with its pick or lands another bust.

Perhaps that is why the draft’s appeal isn’t there for me this year. My hometown doesn’t have a team and the fun is gone.

You see, I could care less if a team from Los Angeles messes up its draft.

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San Diego State running back Donnel Pumphrey plays in the final game of his standout career on Saturday and he should be recognized as the all-time leading rusher in college football history when it ends.

But alas, that won’t be entirely true.

The NCAA is a weirdo organization and it doesn’t recognize bowl statistics if they are from before 2002. But eventually, the NCAA is going to come to its senses and count those games.

Even that group of people won’t be dumb forever, right?

So come Saturday in the Las Vegas Bowl, Pumphrey (6,290) needs 108 rushing yards against a tough Houston Cougars’ defense to surpass Ron Dayne (6,397) as the all-time record holder. But he really needs to gain 836 yards if he wants to keep the record.

Count Dayne’s bowl games and the Wisconsin star — who played from 1996-99 — rushed for 7,125 yards.

Pumphrey may get the record Saturday to cap off a fantastic career but he will only be renting it.

Here is the stellar Las Vegas Bowl preview — http://www.albanyherald.com/sports/las-vegas-bowl-capsule/article_3e2232c7-43c3-5573-a907-b154c71c1d26.html

 

The San Diego Chargers are playing their next-to-last game in San Diego on Sunday as there won’t be a January reprieve this time around.

The team is off to Los Angeles, which means Dean Spanos gets to play second fiddle to Kroenke the Donkey (Rams owner Stan Kroenke) until the end of time. Or a shorter time span if Donald Trump learns where the bomb buttons are hidden.

Regardless, rubbing salt in the wounds of San Diego sports fans is this nugget: The Oakland Raiders can clinch a playoff spot by beating the Chargers at Qualcomm Stadium.

Now that really hurts.

Oakland is on the verge of ending a 14-year playoff drought and has one of the top quarterbacks in the game in Derek Carr and one of the elite pass rushers in defensive end Khalil Mack. The Raiders can make some noise in the postseason too.

But Chargers’ fans don’t want to see this clinching, that’s for sure. There are already enough bad memories with the Raiders — Stabler to Banaszak to Casper rates as the worst and the 1980 AFC title game is right behind — and Oakland celebrating a playoff berth on the field once home to Dan Fouts, Kellen Winslow, Junior Seau and LaDainian Tomlinson would be one final act of rubbing it in the faces of San Diegans.

The Chargers may be goners but San Diego’s intense hate of the Raiders will live on.

Here is the stellar Raiders-Chargers preview (back to the New York Times link!) — http://nytimes.stats.com/fb/preview.asp?g=20161218024

The Spanos family plane sits on the runway in San Diego on Wednesday.

The Spanos family plane sits on the runway in San Diego on Wednesday. Photo credit – Secret airport source.

 

So for one last time the “San Diego Chargers” will take the field.

Probably never to be referred to in that way again on a football field.

Sunday’s road game against the Denver Broncos will likely mark a sad end for a franchise that was adored by San Diegans for most of the past five-plus decades. And the only reason why enthusiasm dimmed this season was due to the club’s actions.

The stage was set when owner Dean Spanos made it clear he wanted to move the team. Proposals by the city of San Diego were scoffed at by Spanos and team spin doctor Mark Fabiani.

Instead of looking at a way to make things happen, Spanos and Fabiani repeatedly pointed out why the city’s proposals for a new stadium wouldn’t work.

Regardless, the City of San Diego submitted its proposal to build a $1.1 billion stadium for the team to the NFL on Wednesday. It’s a last-ditch effort by the city to keep the team but Spanos isn’t listening.

He is ready to apply for relocation as soon as Monday and is hoping to gain approval to move the team on either Jan. 12 or 13 when the league’s owners meet in Houston.

All along, Spanos has been working his fellow owners behind the scenes in hopes of approval to move the franchise.

Spanos envisions playing at a stadium in the Los Angeles suburb of Carson. The greed of an NFL owner knows no limits and once the St. Louis Rams began looking at moving to Los Angeles, Spanos couldn’t help himself.

His greedy hands kept picturing the possibility of adding billions of dollars to his family’s net worth.

And now he is just a couple of weeks away from having his wish granted.

Once approval occurs, a team that began playing in San Diego in 1961 will flat-out vanish.

Too bad Spanos couldn’t just vanish and leave the team alone.

Good on-field play certainly disappeared this season as poor Philip Rivers has tried to carry a team with little talent. The squad carries a 4-11 record into the season finale as coach Mike McCoy continues to make poor decisions and display that he should be an offensive coordinator and not an NFL head coach.

The Chargers aren’t part of the playoff field for the fifth time in six seasons and this year’s record is the franchise’s worst since 2004.

Of course, winning has never been a Spanos specialty. The Chargers have made the playoffs only nine times in 32 seasons under the family’s ownership.

They were the owners for the team’s lone Super Bowl appearance when San Diego was smashed by the San Francisco 49ers following the 1994 season.

But coach Bobby Ross and general manager Bobby Beathard couldn’t get along and Spanos showed Ross the door after the 1996 season.

And they certainly were in position to reach the Super Bowl in the middle of last decade but again the lack of top-flight leadership by Spanos curtailed the possibility.

San Diego recorded a franchise-best 14-2 mark in 2006 but was ousted in the opening round of the playoffs by the New England Patriots. Once again, the coach and general manager didn’t know how to communicate and Spanos kept hard-nosed GM A.J. Smith and sent coach Marty Schottenheimer packing.

Spanos termed the situation as “dysfunctional” and apparently wasn’t smart enough to figure out his lack of a spine over the previous two seasons was a major factor. What leader would allow two of the most crucial people in the organization to go that long without talking?

Making the whole situation sadder is that the Chargers then hired Norv Turner as coach. Handing a team built to win a championship to a mediocre coach and leader assured the Chargers would miss their championship window – and they did.

Spanos will arrive in Los Angeles with a lousy football team and that isn’t going to help matters.

Know this: USC is the preferred football team in Los Angeles and there is no chance of the Chargers ever surpassing the Trojans when it comes to popularity.

Spanos also has to fire McCoy. You can’t arrive in Los Angeles with that kind of guy as your coach. He also needs a different public relations staff as having a staff in which the top two guys are lifetime wimposauras is going to be a detriment to doing PR properly in the multi-dimensional Los Angeles market.

Taking the history to Los Angeles will be awkward. You just can’t have Lance Alworth, Dan Fouts or LaDainian Tomlinson show up to wave to the crowd of a city that never watched them play.

Not to mention honoring the “Air Coryell” era or Junior Seau’s tremendous tenure or the franchise’s 1963 AFL title. Kellen Winslow’s performance in the epic playoff game in Miami on Jan. 2, 1982 certainly will never feel like a “Los Angeles” thing.

Added up, it’s just an all-around uncomfortable feel. A greedy owner didn’t get his way in San Diego so he is going to pick up his football team and move it 100-plus miles up the road.

The team will be missed for sure. The ownership won’t be.

And with his two overmatched sons lined up to run the team, the long-standing tradition of Spanos-led teams losing will surely continue.

Good luck, Los Angeles. And brace yourself for decades of buffoonery.

Sydney Seau tried hard not to get emotional but that was just not an attainable goal.

Not in Canton, Ohio on a memorable Saturday night. Not when it came to presenting her late father for induction into the Pro Football Hall of Fame.

The 22-year-old daughter of NFL great Junior Seau was allowed to speak at the induction ceremonies after originally being informed she wouldn’t be allowed to do so. Public pressure helped change that decision.

Sydney Seau undoubtedly had to agree not to bring up the fact that her father’s suicide was likely due to chronic traumatic encephalopathy, the degenerative brain disease that has robbed many players of a quality life after football.

A minute of silence was held for Junior Seau but shhhhhh – let’s not talk about how the San Diego Chargers’ legend died at the age of 43 in 2012.

To me, the saddest part of the night is that Seau – one of the greatest linebackers in NFL history – wasn’t around to enjoy it. He gave his life to football and he deserved to be standing at the podium giving one of his knockout speeches.

I covered him for six seasons at a time when he was at the top of his game and his determination was unmatched. Whether the Chargers were going to their lone Super Bowl or suffering through a 1-15 campaign with dog-meat talent, he was giving his all even in practices.

I’ve seen it written several times over the past few years that Seau never had a concussion. I know that isn’t true.

You know how NFL teams currently fudge on their injury reports? Just think was it was like in the 1990s when there wasn’t as much scrutiny.

I vividly recall one week during the time I was covering Seau that he was invisible all week. Everything to do with Seau was hush-hush and nobody saw him during the media availability sessions, which was a real oddity since Seau was usually eager to get his television time.

Seau played on Sunday and everybody moved on. But I suspected at the time that he had a concussion – which had yet to develop into a big deal in the football world – and the Chargers were doing all they could to keep it quiet.

Of course, NFL teams lie all the time. Remember all the fibbing the Chargers did per their player injuries leading up to playing the New England Patriots in the AFC Championship Game in Jan. 2008?

The club opened up LaDainian Tomlinson for nationwide criticism by fudging about the seriousness of his knee injury. Team president Dean Spanos had no problem lying to my face over the fact that Philip Rivers had a torn anterior cruciate ligament injury and had undergone knee surgery earlier in the week. Norv Turner also looked into my eyes and denied that kicker Nate Kaeding had a broken bone in his leg.

So yeah, the last people you want to believe about anything are the Chargers. Soon to be known as the Los Angeles Chargers.

The NFL office is just as bad. And with the Seau family having a pending lawsuit against the league, you could see why there was reluctance to allow Sydney Seau to speak.

The Pro Football Hall of Fame cited a policy that was enacted several years back for the original decision. But both the Hall and the NFL eventually got it right by giving Sydney Seau more than enough time to speak about her father – both in the video on him and then on stage after his bust was unveiled.

Think of all the pressure on young Sydney as she was speaking in front of thousands of strangers about her late father. Then realize how eloquently she painted a picture of all things Junior – father, football player, community icon – and there’s nothing to do but tip your cap.

Pretty sure Junior was looking down – and was just as proud of his daughter as she is of him.

Got to love the NFL – even when they agree to fork out $765 million, they are more worried about the league’s image than losing a huge sum of money from its overflowing coffers.

The league insisted for decades that concussions weren’t the reason so many players had brain issues after their careers ended. Only an ostrich that has never seen a football game would go along with the NFL’s so-called logic.

More and more experts have laughed at the NFL’s claims over the past two decades and it was quite a blow for the league when future Hall of Famer Junior Seau committed suicide in 2012 and the ensuing study displayed he had major brain damage.

So with the walls closing in on the NFL – deny, deny, deny was no longer going to work – a federal judge announced the league had reached an agreement with former players who filed suit on Thursday. The settlement calls for $675 million of the $765 million to be used to compensate former players and families of deceased players for their brain injuries.

But look what is prominently displayed in the proposed settlement.

The agreement “cannot be considered an admission by the NFL of liability, or an admission that plaintiffs’ injuries were caused by football.”

These greedy egotistical folks – can’t refer to people like this as humans – still refuse to admit that football causes brain injuries.

You know, because it’s just a coincidence that people who have their heads slammed into thousands of times while playing football end up with brain injuries.

What will they claim next – that your local Starbucks’ barista has the same odds of developing chronic traumatic encephalopathy as a hard-hitting safety?

It is way past time for the NFL to take responsibility for the head injuries suffered by the men who played the game.

Something tells me this settlement – with the non-admission clause displayed so prominently – is more a case of the greedy owners making sure they didn’t end up paying over a billion dollars in this suit as well as hoping the no-liability language will prevent future potentially costly suits from being filed.

As usual, the NFL is more interested in itself – and that all so-important image – even when it is agreeing to the type of settlement sum that only a GUILTY PARTY would ever agree to pay.

You don’t need to take my word for it – just read the accounts of former players who fought the NFL for health-related claims only to be thwarted.

Heck, cruise through my 2007 award-winning story on former NFL offensive lineman Brent Boyd and check out all the hurdles – not to mention illegal doctor shopping – that were thrown in his way to try to repeatedly prevent him from being compensated for his debilitating injuries (http://tinyurl.com/og64coz).

I’ll never forget the phone call I received from Boyd one day after my concussion package ran. He called to let me know the story – which is part of the Congressional record on NFL concussions – had gotten him invited to testify before Congress.

While working on that project, I was fortunate enough to have an in-person one-on-one interview with football legend Joe Montana and I asked him about the concussion issue. He told me about the one he suffered in the 1993 AFC Championship Game – when he played for the Kansas City Chiefs – and described it as feeling “like a lightning bolt from one side of my head to the other.”

I asked Montana about the league’s reluctance to acknowledge that concussions cause head injuries that lead to disabilities, and he gave me this telling quote:

“Once they say there’s an issue, then they have to fix it,” Montana said. “As long as they never admit that there’s one, then they never have to fix it.

“They’re never going to admit it because then they have to go about and try to correct it.”

Bingo.

Even on a day in which the NFL agrees to fork out $765 million, the league continues to refuse to be accountable or take the proper level of responsibility.

As always, the NFL is more interested in protecting its brand and image than the people who play the game.

That’s sad – no matter how much cash they spend to cover up past denials of the truth.

It is good to learn that the brain of the late Junior Seau was discovered to have chronic traumatic encephalopathy, the degenerative brain disease that has played a role in a few other former NFL players’ suicides.

The former San Diego Chargers’ star shot himself to death last May and his family donated his brain to researchers, who determined that Seau’s brain was badly damaged due to the repeated head blows absorbed over his long football career.

Readers who frequent this Website know I wasn’t the least bit surprised when Seau committed suicide. The spin control put forth over Seau’s driving off a cliff in Oct. 2010 raised red flags in my mind about his mental stability and my initial thoughts upon hearing Seau was dead of shotgun wounds led me to predict they were self-inflicted.

His death stunned and saddened San Diegans as Seau is one of the most-beloved figures in the city’s sports history. And the masses couldn’t understand why such a successful person who did so much for others would pull the plug on his own life.

That’s why it is an outstanding development for researchers to have made this discovery. Seau’s family can finally make sense over why he would take his own life and it is important to have this determination per the concussion cloud that is currently hanging over the sport.

I keep reading that Seau never was reported to have a concussion on a weekly NFL injury report. That may be true but I know there was an underlying belief that he was dealing with one during one week of the six seasons I covered him when he was on the Chargers.

Seau practically disappeared from view that week. Usually, he was quick to get his television time in front of cameras during the media’s availability sessions but he was more invisible than a ghost in the week I’m reflecting on. Whatever was going on was hush-hush and Seau played that Sunday and everybody moved on.

I personally suspect Seau had multiple concussions in his lengthy career – he downplayed other injuries so he certainly would do the same with getting his bell rung. And this revelation of having CTE in his brain starts to shed light on why a once-proud superstar would pull the trigger and end his own life at the young age of 43.

The NFL has been well behind the curve when it comes to former players dealing with concussion issues and having Seau added to the list is going to turn up the pressure.

Just think of that day when Seau gets inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame. Seau won’t be around to give an impassioned speech and instead the focus will be on how the sport he gave so much to eventually took away everything from him.

Seau’s legacy in football is far from over. In fact, it may be about to reach new heights.

LaDainian Tomlinson will sign a contract with the San Diego Chargers on Monday and immediately announce his retirement.

That certainly beats Tomlinson signing a contract and rejoining the franchise as a player.

The legendary running back was hopeful of finding employment for the 2012 season despite it being increasingly clear last season that his tank was near empty.

Tomlinson had just 280 rushing yards for the New York Jets last season, a total that he could have threatened to reach in one game when he was at the top of his profession.

He had one of the top seasons in NFL history – regardless of position – in 2006 when he rushed for 1,815 yards and scored 31 total touchdowns while winning NFL MVP honors.

Tomlinson also led the NFL in rushing yards in 2007 and topped 1,000 yards in eight consecutive seasons. He began showing his decline in 2008 when he was often perturbed that Chargers coach Norv Turner felt the squad’s chances of winning hinged on Philip Rivers’ arm as opposed to Tomlinson’s fading legs.

He had a poor 2009 season and the Chargers parted ways with him. Tomlinson wanted to continue playing and he joined the Jets. By early last season, it was painful to turn on the television and see No. 21 lugging the ball for New York.

Loyal MrSportsBlog followers may recall it was urged on these pages last October that he needed to retire after the 2011 season. But Tomlinson didn’t do so until the writing on the wall became the size of Jupiter earlier this month.

There was public clamoring for the Chargers to sign Tomlinson for one final hurrah – especially after Tomlinson’s emotional speech following the suicide of San Diego legend Junior Seau – but there was no way Chargers general manager A.J. Smith was going to sign off on that after the acrimonious departure just two years earlier.

Think about it, the Chargers were glad to move on after Tomlinson had 730 yards in a season in which he scored 12 touchdowns. So why would they have any interest in a guy now clearly well past his prime who turns 33 on Saturday?

The Chargers signed 30-year-old Ronnie Brown earlier this month to officially stamp out any chance of a Tomlinson return. That the injury prone Brown was seen as a better option had to be humbling for Tomlinson, who finally appears to have accepted that none of the NFL’s 32 teams view him an asset worth signing.

The good news is we can now remember Tomlinson for being one of the top all-time running backs in NFL history as opposed to a worn-out horse who no longer has the legs to be a factor. Tomlinson ranks fifth on the all-time list with 13,684 rushing yards and his 162 total touchdowns rank third behind Jerry Rice (208) and Emmitt Smith (175).

He will be remembered as one of San Diego’s most beloved athletes – only Seau and baseball Hall of Famer Tony Gwynn were adored on the same level – and he also will be recalled as a superstar athlete who always avoided trouble and did extensive work in bettering the community.

Tomlinson also leaves the game without suffering any serious injuries so hopefully he won’t be one of those players who suffer with physical and mental pain later in life.

But the best news is we won’t be submitted to another season of seeing an impostor wearing No. 21. The LaDainian Tomlinson we saw last season is not the one to picture when recalling his spectacular career.

Instead, think about the No. 21 in powder blue who was a highlight reel for the Chargers for most of his nine seasons with the franchise. That is the LaDainian Tomlinson worth discussing and remembering.

Now that Tomlinson has made the right decision, he can look forward to five years down the road. That is when he will be a first-ballot Hall of Famer as one of the top running backs to ever play the game.

The decision may have come later than it should have, but it is definitely the correct one.

It has been three days since football legend Junior Seau committed suicide and there are no clear answers for why the former San Diego Chargers standout would shoot himself in the chest.

As I’ve tried to decipher the situation over the past few days, I keep coming back to my initial reaction on Wednesday upon hearing the initial report that Seau had been shot.

I immediately predicted on my favorite social media site that it was self-inflicted. I also texted a similar message to one of my brothers.

Sadly, the death being caused by Seau’s own hands was proven true less than an hour later.

Perhaps even more sadly, I wasn’t surprised.

Before I tell you why his suicide wasn’t as stunning to me as it was to so many others, let me tell you that I covered Seau for six seasons with the Chargers. I last saw him at a Super Bowl media function in Phoenix a few days before the New England Patriots lost to the New York Giants in February, 2008.

When I asked him a question in the group setting, there was immediate recognition from his facial expressions, the level of his voice and the way he filled up my tape recorder with usable quotes. He knew I was from the hometown newspaper that so many of his friends and people from the past would read.

He was in one of his comfort zones and all was well in his world.

Flash forward a few years later and we can only guess how Seau was coping after leaving the sport and being on the outside of the NFL lifestyle.

He had attempted to retire before and was unable to do so and joined the Patriots. But I think the biggest hint of his struggles to move on from football occurred in October, 2010.

What happened then was the first thing I thought of when reading the initial report of Seau’s shooting.

Seau drove his car off a cliff and survived the plunge even though his vehicle was estimated to be traveling at 60 miles per hour. Seau’s story was that he fell asleep at the wheel.

At the time, it sounded real fishy and I wasn’t convinced when authorities bought Seau’s story. But it was the outside stuff that really raised the red flags that driving off a cliff might not have been an accident.

There seemed to be an inordinate amount of spin control being delivered following the incident – stuff including how Junior Seau has too much to live for and would never kill himself – and my highly trained journalistic antenna wasn’t buying it.

I have seen way too much effort put into covering up minor things by pro franchises and college athletic programs and making sure Seau’s reputation remained intact was certainly something that would be considered worthy of spin control. Particularly with it occurring hours after he was arrested on a domestic assault charge, which was later dropped.

When it comes right down to it, who in San Diego County really wanted to believe that Seau would try to kill himself just because he had been arrested?

Seau was a city icon and one of the most popular athletes in San Diego’s sports history. The guy had done thousands of good deeds for kids and other people he didn’t even know. He was a local institution who led the Chargers to their only Super Bowl appearance.

He was a revered leader for all 20 of his NFL seasons and didn’t fit the profile of someone who would harm himself.

So Seau was given the benefit of the doubt. People of his level of fame and popularity often are.

But I wonder if people close to Seau asked him the hard questions at the time. And if they did, were they easily persuaded that all was well by Seau’s ability to charm folks with his smile and personality?

A lot of athletes struggle to make the transition from superstar to regular person. There will be nothing they do the rest of their lives that even comes remotely close to having 70,000 fans cheer their every move, and they no longer have the structure and purpose that comes along with being a professional athlete.

All the things they have known for years suddenly end – the team meetings, the offseason workouts, the bonding with their teammates and the ultimate exhilaration of winning a football game on Sunday.

Kind of like an Olympian who wins a gold medal in their early 20s – what can possibly top their athletic accomplishments?

Football was Junior Seau’s identity from as long as we all first heard of him and he was one of the top linebackers who ever played the game. That’s a tough thing to just leave aside and it’s an issue thousands of other athletes have had to battle.

There is the strong possibility that Seau was battling depression or could have brain injuries stemming from all those years of ferocious play. The best thing in the wake of the tragedy is that his family has decided to donate his brain for examination and we will get those answers and be able to make the appropriate conclusion.

The thing we all have a hard time with now is attempting to figure out why Seau didn’t reach out for help last Wednesday morning. Why didn’t he call his now-distraught mother if he was struggling? Why didn’t he call Chargers president Dean Spanos – who I absolutely know would have dropped whatever he was doing in a split second to get help for Seau.

Seau was a popular figure who had the means to deal with issues that your commonly distressed person doesn’t have available. Why did his frame of mind prevent him from doing so?

He also had to know his mother would be crushed and that his four children would have to move on in life knowing their famous father took his own life. That is quite a burden for those kids and other family members to have to deal with.

You also wonder what the interaction might have been earlier that morning between Seau and his girlfriend – identified as Megan Noderer. Her frantic 911 call after discovering Seau’s lifeless body is excruciating tough to listen to as she hyperventilates and is in hysterics after returning home from the gym.

So many things left unanswered for now and the outpouring of appreciation in San Diego County for Seau is a reminder of just how beloved he was. Only Padres star Tony Gwynn and former Chargers running back LaDainian Tomlinson have been in the same popularity stratosphere.

One of the saddest things of the situation to me is this – Seau will be inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame immediately upon becoming eligible and won’t be around to enjoy the occasion.

He certainly deserved to enjoy football’s ultimate honor after having invested so much energy and passion for the game.

It’s sad that suicide is now part of the Seau legacy and hopefully we will get some answers for why he took his own life.

Then there’s also this — perhaps part of his legacy is still to come if it is proven that he suffered major brain dysfunction from playing football.

I put together a list of things I’m thankful for on Thursday afternoon and one of them stood out like an out-of-control Ndamukong Suh stomping on an offensive lineman’s arm.

It’s not the type of thing that ends up on the Thanksgiving Day list of a mailman, banker or crane operator.

Here it is – thankful not to be spending the day covering a football practice.

In a 15-season span from 1994-2008, I covered either a college or NFL practice on 14 different Thanksgivings. The time I didn’t was memorable – Nov. 27, 2003 – because I was flying back home from Hawaii after covering the famous Maui Invitational basketball tournament.

It was close to 11 p.m. when I made it back to the mainland but traveling all day on Thanksgiving was a fair tradeoff for spending four days in 80-degree Maui weather.

Otherwise, that is a lot of good food and family get-togethers missed over the years as Thanksgiving was whittled down to just another routine work day of dealing with pampered NFL players and obstinate coaches or college players and coaches.

Just because it’s Thanksgiving didn’t mean some of the egomaniacs switched to good-boy manners. One NFL offensive lineman saw me one year and said, “What the f— are you doing here? Don’t you have a family? Get a life.”

Yeah, nice to see you too. Apparently, the San Diego Chargers player wasn’t smart enough to figure out he was working on Thanksgiving too.

Following one Thanksgiving football post-practice interview session with Chargers coach Norv Turner, a writer from another newspaper actually wished Turner a Happy Thanksgiving. Turner didn’t acknowledge the greeting or return it. He just walked away into the doorway back inside the team facility.

Yep, Thanksgiving Day was just another day of players and coaches being themselves.

I also reflect back on five-year increments on birthdays and holidays and was horrified earlier this afternoon to recall Thanksgiving Day, 2006.

I wrote one of those emotional and inspirational human-interest feature stories on then-San Diego State defensive coordinator Bob Elliott, who had nearly died several years earlier due to a rare blood disorder. Elliott spent more than a month in the hospital and only a bone marrow transplant from a relative saved his life.

You figured that would be a big-time centerpiece story in the sports section on Thanksgiving morning – a day that people love to read inspiring tales – and Elliott and his wife asked me to bring them some copies of the article.

But when I saw the paper that Thanksgiving morning, I immediately knew I wouldn’t be personally handing a copy to Elliott at that afternoon’s practice.

The sports editor at the time decided there should be a “Golden Turkey” award and more than three-fourths of the sports section cover page was a graphic of an incredibly homely looking turkey with Junior Seau’s face attached to it.

The guy wrote a whole article blistering different San Diego-area players, coaches and team officials with Seau being anointed the biggest bum of the year, hence him landing the “Golden Turkey.”

Remember – this ran on Thanksgiving Day.

Oh yeah, the story on Elliott’s courageous battle at avoiding death was buried at the bottom of the page. That made it doubly hard to see due to the homely turkey with Seau’s face cowering over it.

I handed a few copies to a football secretary the following Tuesday to pass on to Elliott. I had no interest in seeing his reaction.

People were irate over the “Golden Turkey” and the emails to the newspaper were extremely harsh. But not only was there a Golden Turkey again the following year, but the 2007 article began with the sports editor – another co-worker nicknamed him “Tin Man” and the moniker stuck – boasting about the success of the first Golden Turkey the previous year.

Different people have different standards of success — having hundreds of people call you an idiot has never seemed like the standard to me.

Since I don’t want to think of this at all on Thanksgiving Day 2012, the 2007 “Golden Turkey” was the commissioner of high school sports in San Diego. A person 99.9 percent of the 3 million people living in the county wouldn’t know if he knocked on their door. And yes, the 2007 article once again sharply criticized all the different “turkeys” in the San Diego sports scene.

So in some ways, being an insurance salesman, a welder or a hairstylist might be a much-better type of career. Those types of folks have every Thanksgiving off and have no sordid tales in their five-year reflection files.

They certainly don’t get greeted with f-bombs or have their Thanksgiving reduced to just another work day.

I do have a bunch of work to do on this Thanksgiving night, but at least I didn’t have to attend a football practice or have anybody negative involved in my day.

And I am extremely thankful for all the things that made my “thankful” list – and that includes not wasting the day at an NFL facility or on a college campus.

I slept in, caught a little bit of the Packers vs. Lions game, had lunch with some relatives, hiked a mountain and feel energized as I get ready to start a packed night of work assignments.

In other words, haven’t encountered anything but positive things. Nary a scowl from anyone and certainly no cuss words hurled my way.

Thanksgiving Day feels much more like a real holiday this way.

I see LaDanian Tomlinson has a chance to reach 100 yards when he gets his first opportunity to play against the San Diego Chargers.

Oh no, not 100 yards in Sunday’s game between the Chargers and the New York Jets. But 100 yards for the season.

The stats don’t lie – the former Chargers’ star has just 97 rushing yards this season – and he owns a skimpy 3.3 yards per carry.

Yes, I double-checked it twice – even a third time – and it just feels sad to see the depth of Tomlinson’s decline.

It is distressing to see the one-time best running back in the game hanging on like a journeyman with production that resembles what you could get from an undrafted free agent making the NFL minimum.

The 2011 version of Tomlinson is nothing like the Hall of Fame version who excelled for the Chargers all those years and set the all-time record of 31 touchdowns during his epic 2006 NFL MVP season.

Looks like I may have to give Tomlinson the same advice I wrote on these pages to Trevor Hoffman when the former San Diego Padres star was getting hammered every time he stepped on the mound in 2010 for the Milwaukee Brewers.

I can sum it up for Tomlinson in one word: Retire.

Imagine the young fans just getting familiar with the NFL wondering what all the fuss is about over the guy wearing No. 21 for the Jets. They see a past-his-prime guy backing up Shonn Greene on a team that ranks next-to-last in the NFL in rushing at a meager 80.8 yards per game.

We’ve seen this occur before in the NFL when a star player hangs on a bit too long and it’s always a bit unpleasant.

Imagine the fans that only saw all-time leading rusher Emmitt Smith as the guy who gained 256 yards and averaged 2.8 yards per carry for the 2003 Arizona Cardinals. They would find it hard to believe that Smith once averaged 5.3 yards in a season and topped 1,400 yards in five consecutive seasons.

Franco Harris suiting up for the 1984 Seattle Seahawks is another sad case. The guy who recorded eight 1,000-yard seasons with the Pittsburgh Steelers had all of 170 yards and a 2.5 average in his lone season with Seattle.

San Diegans have seen this happen with the Chargers too. The franchise brought in a washed-up Johnny Unitas in 1973 to be the quarterback well after his knees have given out. Unitas threw seven interceptions in 76 passes before mercifully finding a spot on the bench to finish out his stellar career.

And what about linebacker Junior Seau? He was one of the top defensive players in the 1990s but he had clearly dropped a few notches when the Chargers decided to move on without him in 2002. He played seven more seasons with the Miami Dolphins and New England Patriots before finally leaving football behind.

There is a generation of current football fans who only know of Seau as this journeyman guy on the Patriots who seemed a step slow all the time. That’s pretty sad.

Anyway, Tomlinson is closing in on that same path if he isn’t smart enough to leave the game after this season. He is a sure Hall of Famer who has made millions playing the game and you’d like to see him move on before he’s remembered for the final part of his career as opposed to the guy who put together eight consecutive 1,000-yard seasons.

Asked Thursday by reporters about this possibly being his final season, Tomlinson said the following:

“I don’t want you to think I’m planning on retirement but the situation may come to that. I’m not thinking about retiring. I definitely want to continue to play.”

The key nugget there is “the situation may come to that.”

Tomlinson deserves better than to be shown the door to end his career. He was already rudely shown the exit by the Chargers in 2009 and he deserves to walk away from the game on his terms, not by being cut again.

I covered Tomlinson for a few years in the latter part of his time with the Chargers and he wasn’t the cheerful person he had been at the beginning of his career. All the nonsense within the organization was wearing on him – the team hung him out to dry publicly when a knee injury sidelined him for most of the 2007 AFC title game against the New England Patriots – and he was highly distressed that Norv Turner felt the Chargers’ chances of winning hinged more on Philip Rivers’ arm than his legs.

There is no longer any debate. That paltry 3.3 average and not even having 100 rushing yards as the seventh game approaches says it all.

Particularly when you consider Tomlinson averaged 113.4 yards per game in 2006 when he had one of the top all-time seasons in football history.

For Tomlinson, it’s time to take the Hoffman route and call it a career.

We’ll see what happens but I’m hoping the player who currently ranks sixth in NFL history in rushing yards feels that way too when the season concludes.