Eskimos linebacker Rennie Curran reflects on suicide of former teammate
Eskimos linebacker played college ball with late Chargers safety Paul Oliver
Winnipeg Blue Bombers quarterback Justin Goltz, left, is sacked by Edmonton Eskimos linebacker Rennie Curran, middle, curing CFL action at Commonwealth stadium in Edmonton, Sept. 14, 2013.
Photograph by: Bruce Edwards, Edmonton Journal
Wednesday was a difficult day for Rennie Curran, one that the Edmonton Eskimos’ rookie linebacker won’t soon forget.
Shortly after his team wrapped up practice, Curran learned that Paul Oliver, a former Georgia Bulldog who helped recruit Curran to the University in 2007, had committed suicide.
The former San Diego Chargers defensive back was found dead on Tuesday night by Cobb County Police in his home in Marietta, Ga. Police confirmed the 29-year-old had died of a self-inflicted gunshot wound.
“He was kind of a big brother, a guy I looked up to,” said Curran, who played for the Bulldogs from 2007 to 2009.
“I knew his girlfriend, his now wife, she was a volleyball player. It’s just shocking to hear that it happened.
“You hear about things like that and you never know the situation that the guy is in, especially when it’s one of your teammates. It’s not easy to be open about those things. It’s sad, because if we knew he was having those type of problems we would have helped, we would have reached out.
“It’s tough. Really tough, especially with how young he is. It could have been any of us.”
While the details of Oliver’s suicide are being investigated, his name is the freshest to a troubling list of football players that have taken their own lives, many who have shown brain injuries in their autopsies.
NFL linebacker Junior Seau took his own life in May, 2012. The National Institutes of Health found that the 43-year-old had suffered from chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE), a neurodegenerative brain disease that can reveal itself after multiple hits to the head.
CNN reported in December 2012 that the journal Brain studied the brains of 35 deceased professional football players. Thirty-four showed evidence of CTE.
Curran’s day intersected with this subject of brian injury a few hours after Eskimos practice, when the Canadian Football League fined him for what it deemed “a dangerous hit to the head of Winnipeg Blue Bombers receiver Terrence Edwards.”
“On the play, it was determined that Curran lowered his head and led with the top of his helmet,” the league’s press release said. “It was also determined that Curran’s helmet was the primary and initial point of contact to the helmet of his opponent.”
Like the NFL, the CFL is trying to crack down on dangerous plays involving hits to the head.
“They have to put their foot down and make an example out of some guy, so maybe I’m the one,” Curran said on Thursday, adding that he’d be appealing the league’s ruling.
He said there was no intent to hurt Edwards (also a Georgia alumni) on the play, just that it happened quickly and he knew he had to prevent his opponent from gaining yards on the play.
“Really, I mean, the only thing I could have done is try to not tackle him,” Curran said. “It’s so close to the (goal line) that I had to come in there with the force that I did. It’s unfortunate, but it is what it is.”
While it’s the first time he’s been fined as a pro (he spent two seasons in the NFL), Curran said he’d been told the fine was more than the standard amount.
“Anyone who has watched me play knows that I play with integrity and that I’m not a dirty player,” he said.
With the news of Oliver’s passing still resonating and the circumstances have yet to be understood, Curran said he has been thinking about concussions and brain damage in football.
“I think about my future and I think about guys like Junior Seau,” he said. “It’s something I think about being a linebacker, we take a lot of hits to the head. It’s something on my mind and it’s something that’s going to be on my mind in the future.”
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