FOXBOROUGH — Matthew Slater, one of many Patriots working out at Gillette Stadium today, took a few minutes to reflect on former teammate Junior Seau, who died of an apparent suicide Wednesday in his Southern California home at age 43.
“He was so full of life. Everybody keeps saying that, but he was. He was so full of life and it just comes as a total shock,” Slater said. “Your heart really goes out to his family. You know, you saw his mom’s response. No mother should have to bury her son, so I just think we’re all in a state of shock right now.”
Slater, himself a Southern California native, said his father, Jackie, informed him of Seau’s death. Jackie Slater played against Seau in the NFL, and Slater played with him for two seasons (2008-09) as a member of the Patriots.
“How about that? That’s just a testament to Junior and how long that he played, 20 years of great football,” Slater said. “The ultimate professional in the way he approached the game. The leader that he was. That’s what I keep thinking about: the leader and the type of man he was. He’d have you ready to run through a wall before a game. Second to none.”
Slater specifically recalled a game during his rookie season in 2008.
“We were playing the Cardinals out here and we were beating them pretty good,” Slater said. “They put me in at safety and I’m jogging back to the huddle and Junior Seau is jogging back to the huddle with me and it was like, ‘Man, this is a guy I grew up watching and I’m playing with him now.’ It was pretty special for me.”
No details have emerged on what possibly led Seau to take his life, but with the seriousness of the concussion issue throughout the NFL, Slater was asked about concussions and their possible link to depression and degenerative brain disease.
“I think there is some concern now, but they are doing studies and new things are coming out where you learn more and more about it,” Slater said. “Who knows what was going on? We can’t really comment on that.
“It’s a concern. Not just depression or things like that. It can lead to a number of different things. That’s kind of the nature of the beast that we’re dealing with as football players. Hopefully, as more and more studies come out, we’ll become more and more informed about that kind of thing.”