Series looks at lives of former NFL players

As a former NFL quarterback, Ray Lucas was used to having a plan

and carrying it out.

A few years ago, this was his plan: He would wait for a Sunday

morning while his wife and daughters went to church, then drive to

the George Washington Bridge, crank the wheel over and drive off

the side.

”Until very recently, I was making plans to end it,” Lucas

says in the first episode of ”Casualties of the Gridiron” an

online documentary series from GQ that goes live Monday morning on

video.GQ.com and the GQ Youtube channel.

That emotional gut punch is just one of many in the eight

episodes of about 10 minutes each. New episodes will come out every

Monday and Thursday before the series wraps on Dec. 18.

”It’s very haunting. I think after you watch an episode, it

really stays with you,” said Dawn Ostroff, the President of Conde

Nast Entertainment. ”My hope is that people will see it so they

can feel compassion in their hearts for what these men were going

through.”

Isaac Solotaroff is the documentary’s director and executive

producer, with co-director Jesse Handsher and executive producer

Jennifer Smith. Among the difficult moments they captured is when

former linebacker Terry Tautolo finds himself in an old 49ers team

photo, pointing out Joe Montana and Ronnie Lott before he

identifies himself. Then he explains how he found himself

homeless.

His former UCLA teammate from the 1970s, Brent Boyd, makes an

appearance in archival footage testifying before Congress. Then

he’s right there on camera, explaining how his life might have

turned out different if he knew then what he knows now.

”I graduated UCLA with honors and was accepted to law school,”

Boyd said. ”But my dream had always been to be an NFL

player.”

The next time we see him, he’s with a clinician, struggling to

name more than a half-dozen or so words that begin with the letter

B. Boyd then explains that he has moved in with his 24-year-old

son.

”We’ve kind of reversed roles,” Boyd says. ”He’s taking care

of Dad now.”

The series shows plenty of moments of hope, too. Jen Smith is a

constant presence as the do-it-all director of player programs for

PAST, an organization that helps former players get treatment for

physical and mental issues, manage pain and addiction, and

generally improve their quality of life.

She was the one Lucas reached out to when he was contemplating

suicide.

Smith said in an interview with The Associated Press that she

picked up the phone one summer day and heard ”My name is Ray

Lucas. Somebody gave me your phone number, and I’m going to drive

off the George Washington Bridge on Sunday.”

Smith, who has been working with former NFL players for years,

said that suicidal thoughts and tendencies are more common than not

among former players. As is addiction, which frequently happens

when players without insurance turn to pills to manage chronic pain

issues.

She got Lucas the help he needed, and now he’s working side by

side with her at PAST, which stands for Pain Alternatives,

Solutions and Treatments, where former players gather once a month

or so to discuss their issues among each other.

”Peer group kind of gives them an avenue of speaking the truth,

speaking from the heart, and not worrying,” Lucas said. ”Every

time that I’ve had a peer group with these guys, I’ve taken

something out of it for myself. You can call it the word `sharing’

so to speak. They’re not going to be judged.”

Lucas often runs these sessions himself. He gets as much help

out of it as anyone, and it seems apparent in the footage of him

and Smith helping other players out with their problems.

As encouraging as some of these moments can be, there’s always

another reminder that there are more players out there in need of

help.

”I think what this show is designed to do is to provide a

real-life glimpse into this,” Smith said. ”While this is

challenging and hard, there’s some hope and some positives that are

in all this. I think it’s important for the public to see

this.”

Online:

http://video.gq.com/series/casualties-of-the-gridiron

Follow Rick Freeman on Twitter at:

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