Ryan Leaf didn’t know Vincent Jackson personally but almost died the same way — alone in a hotel room — and he’s begging Roger Goodell to do more to help former players cope.
The former NFL quarterback posted an emotional video Monday in the hours after Jackson passed away at the Homewood Suites hotel in Brandon, FL. Officials say Jackson had suffered from chronic alcoholism.
Now that he’s had time to process the situation, Leaf spoke with TMZ Sports about why Jackson’s death had such a tremendous impact on him, despite the fact they didn’t know each other.
“I just was really emotional. I can relate,” Leaf says … “There was some empathy behind it because he was alone in a hotel room dying and I felt that way. I’ve been in a hotel room and was dying alone.”
Leaf’s struggles with substance abuse are no secret — in fact, he even spent time in prison stemming from his addiction. But, he’s not only sought help over the years, he’s now committed to helping other former players deal with similar issues.
However, Leaf says he still struggles with “survivor’s guilt” — he can’t understand why he lived and others in the very same situation have died.
“That’s something I’m working on with my therapist because [Jackson] was a hell of a player and he’s done so much for his community and everything like that. Why couldn’t more have been done?”
So, what should the NFL do to help players who are struggling after their playing days are over?
“I particularly think a transition program immediately exiting the NFL or consistent therapy [could help]” Leaf says.
He also suggests the NFL build treatment centers for players — similar to the military’s VA hospitals and centers.
“I think there should be a facility for players who built [the NFL’s brand] and whose minds are fragile and need help.”
Leaf says several high-profile former NFL players have reached out to him to offer support — including Michael Strahan.
The 44-year-old also has a message to players battling depression, addiction or any other issue that could affect their health — please reach out.
“If family members or my brothers are in need or in a place where I once was, call me! I’ll be on the first fight, I’ll be in your living room, I’ll go with you through it!”
“We need purpose when we’re done and all my mistakes and all my poor choices and all the things that brought me to where I’m at right now may have actually given me my purpose.”
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