As Cardinals guard Justin Pugh took questions from reporters today about training camp practices and preseason games, he urged them to talk about something more important.
“You guys don’t want to talk about what’s next for NFL players,” Pugh said. “You just want to talk about what’s coming up with the opponent. No one’s worried about the mental health of our guys. We’ve got Rob Gronkowski crying on ESPN. You guys don’t want to talk about that.”
Responding to Gronk saying he was “not in a good place” as a result of the injuries he suffered over the course of his NFL career, and Andrew Luck retiring because of the pain of multiple injuries, Pugh said everyone in and around the NFL has a responsibility to talk about the mental challenges of playing the game.
“The mental side of the NFL has been ignored for so long,” Pugh said. “I bet you if you go on to the Twitter world, you’re going to see all these guys saying, ‘Andrew Luck is soft, or Andrew Luck is this and that.’ Those same guys have their friends killing themselves right now. Guys in the NFL, instead of dealing with these issues, are killing themselves. So we obviously have to have a conversation about it, because if we can’t be forward, then those things are going to continue to happen.”
Pugh said he hopes NFL players can be leaders in showing the importance of talking about mental health.
“It’s us as athletes breaking that stigma, that we can talk about mental health,” Pugh said. “It’s across all aspects of life, though. I don’t want to say regular civilian life, but like, my family, we don’t talk about how you’re feeling and things like that. A lot of families don’t. Like when you sit down at the kitchen table, how often do you guys [ask], ‘How are you feeling today? What are your emotions like today?’ It’s not something [common]. I think it’s more of an American problem, and it gets magnified because we play such a macho game. No one wants to show any weakness.”
Pugh raises a valid point, and one that ought to be a focal point for people in and around the NFL.