The NFL’s Transition Assistance Program doesn’t get a lot of publicity. It works behind the scenes to help players move from the playing field to the workplace, a segue that is not always easy.
The TAP helps players with everything from academics to business opportunities. But sometimes it just helps players handle life.
Mike Freeman of CBSSports.com wrote this week about one of those tougher transitions for a former player. In a story confirmed to NFLEvolution.com by NFL spokesman Greg Aiello, the anonymous former player recently was thinking about taking drastic actions because his move away from pro football wasn’t going well. That is, until the transition program stepped in.
The former player thought about killing himself. It wasn’t the first time he had thoughts of suicide, but these thoughts seemed more serious. The player’s wife became so concerned for not just his safety, but hers, that she contacted the NFL.
Two ex-players from the NFL’s new league initiative that uses former players to coach recently retired ones responded. The three former players spent three days together. The players themselves bonded over having been in the NFL and talked bluntly about how difficult it is to leave the game and the money and the accolades and become a normal person again.
At the end of the three days, the player was no longer talking about taking his own life but instead was talking about the future. The wife of the player sent an emotional email to the NFL and the two players who talked a player away from the brink.
Freeman noted the program and its process to save former players may be one of the most innovative in sports.
The NFL runs what it calls ambassador and transition programs, but it is the latter program that is extremely interesting. It consists of recently retired players who go through extensive training and actually become certified to help in the areas of mental and behavioral health.
The program is run by former NFL player Troy Vincent, who said one of the main goals is to give “a sense of hope” to players having difficulty both in the game and once retired.
“We want to support both active and retired players,” said Vincent, who’s currently a league vice president.
Freeman references the deaths of Kansas City Chiefs linebacker Jovan Belcher and his girlfriend Kasandra Perkins and suggests that programs like these could prevent tragic events like that from occurring in the future.
– Bill Bradley, contributing editor