Ingalls on Seahawks investigation: 'I can't ignore the widow's note'

"It came from the widow of a player, and she told me he died, she believed, indirectly from injuries he got in Seahawks training camp," he recounted.

KING 5 investigator Chris Ingalls said his story of former Seahawks player injuries changed on about his 20th response.

“It came from the widow of a player. And she told me he died, she believed, indirectly from injuries he got in Seahawks training camp,” he recounted on KING 5’s The Sound podcast.

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Ingalls detailed the year-long process.

He said he looked up the Seahawks rosters on Wikipedia, then looked up their address through public records. He mailed the survey to 806 players, included a self-addressed stamp envelope, and allowed respondents to answer anonymously if they wanted. The survey asks about the former players’ current health and well-being.

“I thought that you kind of invade their privacy when you ask the kind of questions we're asking,” he explained. “I thought that my responses would be more complete and more truthful and probably get more answers if I gave them the option of returning a survey confidentially.”

Ingalls received 108 responses, which satisfied him.

"First of all, they don’t know who I am, they’re public figures and might be worried that some wacko is trying to get ahold of them. They might think it’s some law firm or the NFL trying to be sneaky. Who know what they’re thinking when this letter arrives."

Reporter’s notebook from Chris Ingalls:

I can’t tell you the exact day that it arrived. But I can remember reading the words.

“It changed his life forever,” the widow wrote. “I believe (football) led to his early death,” her handwritten note said.

The message came in one of the self-addressed, stamped envelopes that I sent to more than 800 former Seattle Seahawks players.

It was early in our year-long project. Probably, twenty or so players had responded so far. Then came the widow’s note.

That’s the moment this story started to take shape for me. I read more responses from dozens and dozens of players who said that their lives were forever altered by football. Pain? Yes. Anxiety or depression? Yes. Brain damaged? Yes.

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The same boxes were being checked over and over. The data were telling me that the men who play this game at the highest level pay a price for it the rest of their lives.

I started this project last year after reading yet another story about a damaged former NFL player. I asked myself, what about our team? What about the guys who played for us? How do Seahawks players fare after they leave the NFL?

What I’ve learned is that some of them walked away from the game in fine shape. But many others did not.

I love football. I played (poorly!) in high school. There’s no more exciting game to watch than professional football. I’m a Seahawks fan.

But I can’t ignore the widow’s note. And none of us should underestimate the draw of football.

“I can tell you, I asked him many times if he could have done it differently and not played football, would he?” the widow wrote. “He said ‘No! He loved the game.”