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The Globe and Mail

NFL initiative helps former player avoid suicide

Messages are written on a board emblazoned with a No. 55 during a public memorial service for late football player Junior Seau, who committed suicide last May

Gregory Bull/The Associated Press

A recently retired NFL linebacker with suicidal thoughts was helped by a new league initiative designed to prevent such tragedies, according to a report.

The NFL confirmed the story, but wouldn't reveal the former player or the two responders.

Facing a rough transition, the player's wife contacted the NFL. Two former players were dispatched from a program which employs ex-players and coaches to assist recently retired ones. The three men spent three days together, bonding over their careers and talking frankly about the challenges of leading a more normal lifestyle.

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The time spent was a success, as the troubled player was talking about the future, rather than ending his own life. The player's grateful wife sent an email to the league and the players:

"I just wanted to send out a HUGE THANK YOU to the two of you for what you did for my husband over the weekend! He is so enthusiastic about seeing the light at the end of a tunnel, and it absolutely would NOT have been possible without your support and this fabulous program. I honestly think it is the most worthwhile thing I've seen the NFL do in all of the years he was involved. He summed it up by saying, 'I think those few days saved a couple of lives in that room.' I don't profess to know or understand the small brotherhood of NFL alumni, but you guys did a phenomenal job in reaching out and changing lives. (Former player's name redacted) I know you spent years as an NFL great, but perhaps this is your best work, the thing for which you should be most proud. (Former player's name redacted) thank you for that initial phone call and email – you made a difference in our lives. As a wife, I thank you for doing something I couldn't. Please express to whomever the powers that be what great importance this program bears. It is an integral part of the transitioning process and if you ever have a board for families or wives involvement, count me in – this is the best thing the NFL has put money towards in years. THANK YOU and I hope to meet you two in person one day. Until then..."

Through an ambassador and transition program, recently retired players receive training and become certified to help in the areas of mental and behavioral health. Former NFL player Troy Vincent runs the program, and said one of its main goals is to "support both active and retired players."

The NFL has been rocked recently by the suicide deaths of Kansas City linebacker Jovan Belcher, who killed his girlfriend before taking his own life last December, and former San Diego Chargers great Junior Seau.

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