Final Play: Fred Hickman's Final Word

I begin my final word with farewell.

The 'farewell' is pointed to Junior Seau, who is believed to have taken his own life this past week at the young age of 43.

You heard Steve Korte speak of Seau earlier as a caring, giving man. He raised millions for charity, took excellent financial care of his family, and was the consummate teammate.

But, the 12-time Pro Bowler paid a huge price in his football career and after.

Time and science will tell if playing the game through pain and injury caused him to get to such a point of desperation, loneliness and, perhaps more than anything else, a want to fix something within him he didn't understand.

Dave Duerson, Superbowl champion, Notre Damer, brilliant guy, I know, same story. There have been others, and sadly, there will be others.

My hope is that Commissioner Goodell and the NFL owners see the bigger picture beyond the bounty scandal and figure out a way to make a game, which is violent by its very nature, safer for its players.

I think equipment improvement is key. These guys play the game one way, and that's pedal to the metal. Let's figure out ways to better protect them.

And, it goes beyond better equipment. Better common sense is key. I commend the Saints coaching staff for holding tight end Dave Thomas out of action after suffering a concussion. Wait and see how he's doing, and be sure. That's the right policy.

NFL football is a business, but to the men who play, it is a way of life. For many, it's all they know. It has made a lot of people, who never played, a lot of money and given us all a great deal of entertainment.

I think the least we can do for these men is to make the game as safe as we can make it for them, and when their careers are done, take care of them. The money is there. The players see to that every game.

That's my final word.