Junior Seau's life ends in tragedy

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Junior Seau's life ends in tragedy

From Comcast SportsNetOCEANSIDE, Calif. (AP) -- Junior Seau's apparent suicide stunned an entire city and saddened former teammates who recalled the former NFL star's ferocious tackles and habit of calling everybody around him "Buddy."It also left everyone wondering what led to Seau's death Wednesday morning in what police said appeared to be a suicide. He was 43."I'm sorry to say, Superman is dead," said Shawn Mitchell, a chaplain for the San Diego Chargers. "All of us can appear to be super, but all of us need to reach out and find support when we're hurting."Police Chief Frank McCoy said Seau's girlfriend reported finding him unconscious with a gunshot wound to the chest and lifesaving efforts were unsuccessful. A gun was found near him, McCoy said. Police said no suicide note was found and they didn't immediately know who the gun was registered to.Neither Mitchell nor Seau's ex-wife knew what might have led to the former first-pumping, emotional leader of his hometown San Diego Chargers to kill himself."We have no clues whatsoever," Gina Seau said. "We're as stunned and shocked as anyone else. We're horribly saddened. We miss him and we'll always love him."Seau's death in Oceanside, in northern San Diego County, stunned the region he represented with almost reckless abandon. The same intensity that got the star linebacker ejected for fighting in his first exhibition game helped carry the Chargers to their only Super Bowl, following the 1994 season. A ferocious tackler, he'd leap up, pump a fist and kick out a leg after dropping a ball carrier or quarterback."It's a sad thing. It's hard to understand," said Bobby Beathard, who as Chargers general manager took Seau out of Southern California with the fifth pick overall in the 1990 draft. "He was really just a great guy. If you drew up a player you'd love to have the opportunity to draft and have on the team and as a teammate, Junior and Rodney (Harrison), they'd be the kind of guys you'd like to have."Quarterback Stan Humphries recalled that Seau did everything at the same speed, whether it was practicing, lifting weights or harassing John Elway."The intensity, the smile, the infectious attitude, it carried over to all the other guys," said Humphries, who was shocked that Seau is now the eighth player from the '94 Super Bowl team to die.Seau's mother appeared before reporters outside the former player's house, weeping uncontrollably."I don't understand ... I'm shocked," Luisa Seau cried out.Her son gave no indication of a problem when she spoke to him by phone earlier this week, she said."He's joking to me, he called me a homegirl,'" she said.Seau's death follows the suicide last year of former Chicago Bears player Dave Duerson, who also shot himself in the chest.In October 2010, Seau survived a 100-foot plunge down a seaside cliff in his SUV, hours after he was arrested for investigation of domestic violence at the Oceanside home he shared with his girlfriend. The woman had told authorities that Seau assaulted her during an argument.There was no evidence of drugs or alcohol involved in the crash and Seau told authorities he fell asleep while driving. He sustained minor injuries."I just can't imagine this, because I've never seen Junior in a down frame of mind," Beathard said. "He was always so upbeat and he would keep people up. He practiced the way he played. He made practice fun. He was a coach's dream. He was an amazing guy as well as a player and a person. This is hard to believe."Seau's ex-wife told the Union-Tribune San Diego that he texted her and each of their three children separate messages: "I love you."Seau, who played in the NFL for parts of 20 seasons, is the eighth member of San Diego's lone Super Bowl team who has died, all before the age of 45. Lew Bush, Shawn Lee, David Griggs, Rodney Culver, Doug Miller, Curtis Whitley and Chris Mims are the others. Causes of death ranged from heart attacks to a plane crash to a lightning strike.Seau's death also is among a few recent, unexpected deaths of NFL veterans.Duerson's family has filed a wrongful death suit against the NFL, claiming the league didn't do enough to prevent or treat concussions that severely damaged Duerson's brain before he killed himself in February 2011.Former Atlanta Falcons safety Ray Easterling, who had joined in a concussion-related lawsuit against the league -- one of dozens filed in the last year -- died last month at age 62. His wife has said he suffered from depression and dementia after taking years of hits.Seau is not known to have been a plaintiff in the concussion litigation.However, his ex-wife told The Associated Press that Seau sustained concussions during his career."Of course he had. He always bounced back and kept on playing," she said. "He's a warrior. That didn't stop him. I don't know what football player hasn't. It's not ballet. It's part of the game."Gina Seau said she didn't know if the effects of concussions contributed to Seau's death.When Humphries joined the Chargers in a 1992 trade, he said it was obvious Seau was "the person who had the most energy, the most excited, the guy who tried to rally everybody." Humphries said Seau "brought out a lot of youngness" in older players.He also helped younger players."So sad to hear about Jr Seau," tweeted New Orleans Saints quarterback Drew Brees, who was with San Diego from 2001-05. "Junebug. Buddy. The greatest teammate a young guy could ask for. This is a sad day. He will be missed greatly."Seau called many of those around him "Buddy." He often referred to teammates as "my players."Seau was voted to a Chargers-record 12 straight Pro Bowls and was an All-Pro six times."We all lost a friend today," Chargers President Dean Spanos said in a statement. "This is just such a tragic loss. One of the worst things I could ever imagine."Seau's greatest game may have been in the 17-13 victory at Pittsburgh in the AFC championship game in January 1995 that sent the Chargers to the Super Bowl. Playing through the pain of a pinched nerve in his neck, he spread out his 16 tackles from the first play to the second-to-last. San Diego was routed 49-26 in the Super Bowl by San Francisco.Seau left the Chargers after the 2002 season when the team unceremoniously told him he was free to pursue a trade. He held a farewell news conference at the restaurant he owned in Mission Valley, and later was traded to Miami.Seau retired a few times, the first in August 2006, when he said, "I'm not retiring. I am graduating."Four days later, he signed with the New England Patriots. He was with the Patriots when they lost to the New York Giants in the Super Bowl following the 2007 season, which ended New England's quest for a perfect season.Last fall, finally retired for good, Seau was inducted into the San Diego Chargers Hall of Fame.His last season was 2009.Patriots owner Robert Kraft recalled the tight hugs he got from Seau in the locker room following games."He may have been one of the most charismatic Patriots players in franchise history," Kraft said. "Today, the fans of the teams for which Junior played -- San Diego, Miami and New England -- lost more than a legendary football player. We lost our Buddy.'"More than 100 people gathered outside of Seau's home, only hours after he was found dead. Families showed up with flowers and fans wearing Chargers jerseys waited to get news.Several hours after Seau was found, his body was loaded into a medical examiner's van and taken away as fans snapped pictures and raised their hands in the air as if in prayer.Family friend Priscilla Sanga said about 50 friends and family members gathered in the garage where Seau's body lay on a gurney and they had the opportunity to say goodbye."Everybody got to see Junior before they took him away," Sanga said. "He looked so peaceful and cold. It was disbelief. We all touched him and kissed him."

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NHL Power Rankings: Bye week blues

NHL Power Rankings: Bye week blues

The schedule makers did the Capitals no favors in their return from the bye week. They returned with a road game at 2 p.m. on Saturday in Detroit, then had to play the New York Rangers on Sunday at 12:30 p.m., less than 24 hours after the game against the Red Wings started.

That would have been tough at any point in the season. Having that back-to-back coming out of the bye week was a raw deal.

SEE THIS WEEK'S NHL POWER RANKINGS HERE

The record across the NHL for teams returning from the bye is 3-12-4. Many may argue this is too small a sample size to draw any conclusions from and that's probably true. Claiming every time a team loses out of the bye that it's because they have been off for a week is an easy excuse. Every team has to play the schedule it's given. Nashville had a similar challenge to Washington, playing a back-to-back out of the weekend against Minnesota and Columbus with both games on the road. The Predators, however, managed a win in the second game.

But still, the NHL needs to be smarter with how it schedules after the bye. No team should have to play a back-to-back in their first two games back, period. If that record continues to get worse, then the leauge will have to adjust to ensure teams coming out of the bye play each other. Otherwise they are giving a competitive advantage to the opponent and to any team that ends up with multiple games against teams in their first game back.

You can't blame the schedule for Washington walking away from this weekend with only one point. That's on them. But, you also can't argue that the schedule put them at a disadvantage for Sunday's game when they played a Rangers team that had been off since Thursday in New York less than 24 hours after the puck dropped in Detroit.

With two losses in their return, the Caps relinquished the top spot in this week's NHL Power Rankings. Find out how far they fell and who took their place here.

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Philipp Grubauer again states case as NHL's best backup

Philipp Grubauer again states case as NHL's best backup

NEW YORK—Philipp Grubauer didn’t get the ‘W’ Sunday at Madison Square Garden, but his scintillating 28-save performance against the Rangers still managed to bolster the backup’s standing as the NHL’s best No. 2 netminder.

Grubauer, in fact, now leads the league in quality start percentage (.786), having posted 11 quality starts in 14 opportunities. The guy right behind him? Wild starter and Vezina Trophy favorite Devan Dubnyk, who boasts a .756 quality start percentage in 45 opportunities.

“Grubi has got a lot of the tougher starts, the back-to-backs, and he’s accepted that and he’s come out and played well,” Coach Barry Trotz said.

Indeed, Grubauer was called upon early and often in Sunday’s game as he stopped 18 of the Rangers’ 19 first period shots. It was the second game of a back-to-back set for the Caps, and it included a quick turnaround and no morning skate.

RELATED: Power Rankings: Bye week blues

Trotz acknowledged that the Caps’ post-bye week schedule factored into the goalie rotation over the weekend. The team practiced on Friday, then hit the road for back-to-back matinees in Detroit and New York. That meant no morning skate in either city. And because Holtby, who is also having a strong season, prefers to face shots during the morning skate prior to a start, the staff decided to tap him against the Red Wings since the starter against the Rangers would go two days without the benefit of a morning skate.

Which, of course, is the sort of thing that happens to backups.

“We thought [Grubauer’s] mindset would be much better to handle that than Braden, who is used to being in there all the time,” Trotz explained. “[Grubauer] was very accepting of that. He’s played fantastic for us this year.”

Grubauer said the Caps’ slow start against the Rangers actually helped him get back into the groove following six days off and the team’s challenging weekend schedule.

“It was good to get into the game, but that’s not the way we want to start,” he said. “You’ve got to find your rhythm again and it helped to get a couple of [quality] shots early.”

Trotz said the game could have been “5-0 in the first period, not 1-0” without Grubauer. And his players agreed.

“Grubi was outstanding, in the first especially,” defenseman Matt Niskanen said.

Nicklas Backstrom added: “Grubi kept us in there in the first period. He kept us in the game there. We were lucky we were only down a goal. It could have been more, but he made some huge saves.”

Performances such as that one have helped Grubauer rack up some outstanding numbers. Overall, the 25-year-old German is third in both save percentage (.932) and goals against average (1.98) among goalies with at least 15 appearances. In addition, he’s got three shutouts, including two in his last six starts.

It also seems likely that Grubauer will hear his number called frequently down the stretch with five sets of back-to-backs remaining. With 14 starts already this season, he just two behind the career-high he established last year.

MORE CAPITALS: Vrana reassigned as Sanford makes most of his opportunity