On March 18th of 2011 I received an email from former Atlanta Falcon Safety Ray Easterling. Unfortunately Ray passed away last week and subsequently authorities have determined that Ray’s death has been considered a suicide. His email was somewhat personal but I want to share edited parts of the email to readers. I am truly sadden that yet another former player has felt a need to end his pain by taking his own life! My sincerest condolences to the Easterling Family!
One of the reasons why I am sharing this private email is to allow the public especially those who will inevitably say something ignorant like “well these guys knew what they were getting into when they played” to get a glimpse of what they may never have an opportunity to see. To those who continue to think that football players of years ago knew what would happen or to assume they were well compensated for their play and pain, I beg to differ! Players had no clue that getting dinged, getting knock silly or getting your bell rung with concussions had lingering long lasting and even fatal consequences. We are all watching from box seats on the 50 yard line with a view the lingering effects of physical (knees, hips, back, shoulders and ankles) and neurological (the brain) pain players are effected with and how their pain now is handled individually.
My name is Ray Easterling. I played from 1972-1980 as a safety for the Atlanta Falcons!
I have always been regarded as a “Hitter”: just recently I was talking with Tommy Nobis on the phone and he said, “Whenever your name comes up, I either think or say,”Ray was one of those special players who was bring it as hard in a losing cause, as he would in a close game”. Nice compliment from a great football player, who I played beside a number of years.
I understand you are on the advisory board of Gridiron Greats and wonder if you would be an advocate for me. I am experiencing an accelerating loss of nerve function in both hands-conclusive from M.R.I., E.M.G., and other tests. Recently, I had an initial evaluation by one of the foremost brain-psychiatrist, in the U.S.A.- my wife accompanied me. He wants to promptly do another M.R.I., Pet scan, Sleep evaluation, other tests because the early tests he performed indicated a possible onset of Alzheimer’s, in light of all the concussions, I played with over 9 years-forget about practice which was worse than a game.
Harry, I have wondered if my business acumen has been askew for several years, due to the number of concussions I played with in games. You remember the code-If you could run, you played! I’ve had two hip replacements), 5 knee operations, another elbow operation, right shoulder re-construction, neck pain and bone spurs. Recently, I have lost the ability to endure even the slightest cold in my hands, and unable to button my shirt. My short term memory is giving me issues and after this initial evaluation my wife is scared to death. The Dr. wants to immediately perform tests, as well as medication, in case his postulation of early onset of mental issues due to brain trauma. I took early retirement and was unaware that I gave up my right to disability.
I was moved by your letter about Dave (Duerson). Harry, even if my situation is revealed to be a not so good prognosis, I am not afraid but I am concerned about my wife. My God is a mighty God and He has hold of me tight-sometimes He provides in all different ways and manners, because He will share His Glory with no man and all praise is His. I do not know what is going to happen but this I do know-I know the one, Who does!