Weekend Check Down: The Top Stories of the Week

May 4, 2012; Pittsburgh, PA, USA; Pittsburgh Steelers first round draft pick David DeCastro (66) participates in drills during rookie minicamp and orientation. Mandatory Credit: Charles LeClaire-US PRESSWIRE

The top stories last week were upbeat, mostly about the draft, and focused primarily on the Steelers. This week is decidedly downbeat and focused mainly elsewhere. While Steelers fans were still in the throes of the hangover of what many believed to be the best draft performance in years they did so in spite the fact that the really important news items were pretty depressing. We begin with...

The death of Junior Seau

The untimely death of the former All Pro who is probably a lock for induction into the Hall Of Fame would have been tragic under any circumstances, but the actual facts are both very poignant as well as troubling not just for his fans and family, but also contributes to the dark clouds gathering over the NFL and the league's future.

Here are the facts as we know them at the moment. Seau's death has been ruled an apparent suicide. Successful suicides by former NFL players have been occurring frequently enough to be perceived to be a grisly trend. The fact that the fatal gunshot wound was in the chest suggests to some that the more common practice of the gunshot to the head was avoided because the victims wanted their brains to be unscathed for future study, presumably for brain trauma related damaged incurred during their playing days.

A little more than two months ago it was suggested on this site that the head injury issue would be something that would not go away and might grow to the point that it might threaten the future viability of the game itself. It may still be too early to say so definitively, but unfortunately there is growing evidence to make the case that we may have been right.

Former quarterback Kurt Warner has stated that because of the recent events of both player deaths and the growing instances of pathologies associated with brain injuries that he could not, in good conscience, allow his children to play football. Researchers who have studied the issue had predicted that reactions like that of Warner's was a likely consequence as more illumination was brought to bear on this subject.

It would be alarmist, however, to quickly draw conclusions at this point. Seau's death has not been fully investigated as of yet. There exist alternative scenarios, such as the possibility of Seau being unable to cope with the inability to continue to practice the craft that he loved so dearly; that would not necessarily be linked to head trauma. And as those who have rebutted Warner's argument have, correctly in my opinion, pointed out, there is no evidence that the popularity of the game has suffered one bit. And until that happens professional football remains on strong footing.

On the other hand the Seau tragedy guarantees that the momentum of the controversy involving player safety issues will continue to grow and remain at or near the forefront of media attention for the foreseeable future. Regardless of the fact that it is unknown how this situation will be eventually resolved, the position taken by the writers on BTSC remains valid; this issue is not going away any time soon.

Bountygate

The other shoe finally dropped on this scandal with player suspensions being announced by the league. The suspensions in and of themselves is an interesting enough story, but what is perhaps more intriguing is the reaction by players and the players union. What is of particular interest to Steeler Nation is that as information is revealed about the process that was involved with how this played out, it sheds light on some of the reasons why the Steelers voted to reject the new CBA last summer.

The NFLPA is apparently not happy with the level of information sharing and cooperation they have received from the league in relation to these suspensions. It's reasonable to speculate now that the Steelers, sensitive to the machinations of Goodellian justice, sniffed out the accountability issues that other teams overlooked.

If you were thinking that this thing was going to go back burner once the suspensions were announced, think again. The players union does not appear to be accepting this laying down, so we look forward to that drama playing out on the front pages of the sports section for a while. And, like the Seau story, there is still the connection to player safety.

Meanwhile, the Steelers, led by union board member Charlie Batch and union rep Ryan Clark come off looking rather savvy in matters not just related to playing the game. In addition the tweets and rants by the likes of James Harrison and LaMarr Woodley may now be viewed as being a bit more righteous in nature.

Terrell Suggs' Achilles

Many of us in Steeler Nation live in terror of injuries, and for good reason. The team was decimated by the injury bug during the 2011 campaign. The bug has bitten again but now it has attacked the Steelers chief rival, the Baltimore Ravens and their star linebacker Terrell Suggs. Suggs has reportedly suffered an Achilles tendon tear, never a good thing for an athlete (or anyone else for that matter) and may miss the entire 2012 season.

Some have let their emotions get the best of them upon hearing the news and have reacted with something approaching unbridled glee. More sober heads quickly, and I think correctly, reprimanded these folks for reasons ranging from bad sportsmanship to bad karma. Besides the fact that I have both the confidence in the team and want the satisfaction of beating the Ravens at full strength, and that Suggs is an interesting guy, an Achilles tendon injury is a nasty affair that should not be wished upon anyone. Let's hope and pray that Suggs makes a full recovery.

Steelers' rookies

Let's try to end this on a lighter note. We have been learning this past week about the new pledges seeking to earn a spot on the Pittsburgh roster. A lot of attention has been given to Mike Adams, Chris Rainey and Sean Spence, analyzing their abilities as football players as well as whether or not they are reputable persons worthy of Steelers locker room. The case is also being made as to the reasons why players such as Toney Clemons, David Paulson, Terrence Frederick and Kelvin Beachum might have what it takes to win a roster spot.

But my favorite rookie story of the week involves number one draft pick David DeCastro.

As you probably heard, DeCastro received a call from Big Ben who wanted to congratulate him upon being selected by the Steelers. DeCastro thought he was speaking to some minor functionary tasked with providing him with travel information. This kinda leaves one to wonder how many breakfast burritos DeCastro may have to purchase before he earns a place in good standing among the big brothers in the Steelers locker room. I guess the average fan will never know.

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