Junior Seau’s death got former Patriots linebacker Ted Johnson thinking again about his own career in the NFL and his struggles with post-concussion syndrome after he retired in 2005.
“It’s corrode or explode,’’ Johnson told a conference on pediatric concussions at Boston Children’s Hospital on Friday. “And it all exploded by killing [himself].’’
Seau shot himself in the chest on May 2, echoing last year’s suicide of former Bears defensive back Dave Duerson. Duerson left a note asking for his brain to be studied for signs of brain trauma; no link has been established between Seau’s death and the pounding he took during his football career, but Johnson was convinced it was a factor.
“You can’t tell me the head trauma he had over his career didn’t affect him,’’ Johnson said. “That was the tip of the tipping point for me . . . It makes you take inventory on your own mortality. If that can happen to him, I’ve got to be more diligent in how I live my life. ‘Cause it’s a road I don’t want to go down.’’
Johnson played 10 years in the NFL - all with the Patriots - before retiring at age 32 on the first day of 2005 training camp when he began to fear the next big hit.
“As a middle linebacker, my job is to initiate contact. It’s not to run away from contact,’’ he said. “I knew it was over for me, because I knew I wasn’t going to be the same player.’’
Johnson said he thinks players will no longer be pressured to come back too soon after a concussion. He thought Seau’s death will also help bring attention to the problem.
But he said players might need to be convinced to speak up for themselves - even in a league where contracts are not guaranteed.
“That dynamic in itself creates a lot of problems,’’ Johnson said. “You don’t want to get labeled as a guy that’s easily concussed.’’
Saints won’t rush QB
Saints general manager Mickey Loomis isn’t taking any of Drew Brees’s recent complaints about the slow pace of contract negotiations personally.
“I feel for him. I feel with him. He wants to be here right now. I want him to be here right now and we’ll work hard to get that accomplished,’’ Loomis said Friday while attending a team event. “It’s important to Drew, but it’s important to our team. The magnitude of this contract is going to impact our team for a long period of time, so we’ve got to get it right. It’s got to be right for Drew, but it’s got to be right for our team as well.’’
Loomis, as he typically does when talking about contracts, declined to go into specifics about the sticking points holding up the deal or even to offer a range of financial figures being discussed.
Team owner Tom Benson said Brees would be in uniform for the Saints this season, but added that the record-setting quarterback and Loomis have to work out some details first.
“There’s money involved, you know, and two people have some difference of opinion, but it’s going to be worked out,’’ Benson said. “I assure you that Drew Brees will be playing here, OK?’’
The Saints have placed an exclusive franchise tag on Brees. However, Brees has said he wants a long-term deal with more security and so far has decided to stay away from team headquarters for voluntary offseason workouts. The Saints begin organized team activities on Tuesday.
Bell joins Jets
A person familiar with the deal said the Jets and veteran safety Yeremiah Bell agreed to terms on a one-year contract worth $1.4 million. Bell’s deal includes $1.3 million fully guaranteed, according to the person who spoke to the AP on condition of anonymity because the team had not announced the move. Bell, 34, was cut by the Dolphins in March to create cap space . . . The Patriots signed rookie free agent Jon Opperud, who started at left guard and left tackle at Montana. Opperud, who is 6 feet 7 inches and 300 pounds, was signed by the Seahawks last month and released May 15.
Bengals sign top pick
The Bengals signed cornerback Dre Kirkpatrick to a four-year contract, the first time in nine years that they’ve reached a deal so quickly with their top pick. Kirkpatrick was the first of Cincinnati’s two picks in the opening round, going 17th overall. He’s expected to compete for a starting job. Leon Hall, the Bengals’ top cornerback, is recovering from a torn Achilles’ tendon . . . The Bills signed second-round pick Cordy Glenn to an undisclosed contract. Glenn, an offensive tackle, was selected 41st overall . . . Rookie linebacker Lavonte David agreed to a four-year contract with the Buccaneers. David was drafted 58th overall.