6:34 PM CDT, May 25, 2012
Mark Carrier has lost two former teammates to suicide — Dave Duerson and Junior Seau — over the last 15 months.
A hard-hitting 1990 first-round draft pick of the Bears out of USC, Carrier succeeded Duerson after the veteran was released just before that season and led the NFL as a rookie safety with 10 interceptions.
"Dave (who shot himself in the chest on Feb. 17, 2011) was a shocker," Carrier said. "He was one of the guys who helped me get acclimated. I could say nothing but good things about Dave because here comes this new kid and, you know, he knows (I am) coming in to take his job.
"But he helped me make it in the pros."
Carrier, now the defensive backs coach for the Bengals, was selected sixth overall in the draft, one pick behind his USC teammate Seau. They rejoiced together after the draft.
"Junior's (suicide) … that was tough," Carrier said. "If anybody had been around Junior and saw what he was like and how upbeat he always was … it just doesn't make sense to me."
Carrier, who was fined during his playing career for his hits, suffered at least three concussions while playing for the Bears, Redskins and Lions. Yet he did not miss a game to injury as he played in 108 consecutively to start his NFL career.
"My daughter (Lexi, 14) is a soccer player, and she has been out for a couple of weeks because of a concussion," Carrier said. "I mean, that's part of the deal. The thing now about concussions, they go through a very rigorous process and (set of tests)."
As Carrier, 44, attempts to make sense of his former teammates' suicides, he also tries to reconcile the fallout from the suspensions, penalties and fines the NFL handed down to players and management regarding the Saints bounty system.
As a defensive coach and aggressive three-time Pro Bowl player himself, Carrier knows that the strong, incendiary language coaches use to motivate players before a game is part of football's culture and that every aspect of the rhetoric is not to be taken literally.
"I don't think (the punishments) change many things," said Carrier, who previously served as an assistant coach with the Jets and Ravens. "It is something that has been done for a long time. The information that got out really took it to another level. You have a commissioner (Roger Goodell) who is big, obviously, on safety and player conduct.
"A few years ago, he said he would hold coaches to a higher standard. When that came out, he had no choice. I don't agree with the penalties, but he had to do something severe or he would be contradicting his own words."
Copyright © 2013 Chicago Tribune Company, LLC