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Former NFL Safety Found Dead at Home

Self-inflicted gunshot wound is cause of death for Ray Easterling



    CORRECTS DATE OF DEATH TO APRIL 19, NOT APRIL 29 - FILE - In this July, 1975 file photo, Atlanta Falcons safety Ray Easterling is shown. Easterling, who helped lead the team's vaunted defense in the 1970s and later filed a high-profile lawsuit against the NFL targeting the league's handling of concussion-related injuries, died Thursday, April 19, 2012, in Richmond, Va., said his wife, Mary Ann Easterling. He was 62. (AP Photo/File)

    Former Atlanta Falcons safety Ray Easterling was found dead at his home Thursday in Richmond, Virginia.

    The death has been ruled a suicide, according to the Richmond Medical Examiner. He was 62 years old.

    Easterling becomes the latest NFLer to kill himself after suffering from mental health issues believed to be linked to head injuries during his football career.

    Easterling had been among several other NFL players that were suing the NFL over how it handles concussion-related injuries. His suicide will impact the case, which also includes former Chicago Bears star Jim McMahon and former Bears Safety Dave Duerson.

    According the reports, Easterling began showing signs of brain damage 20 years ago. He battled depression and insomnia, along with signs of dementia.

    His wife, Mary Ann Easterling, says she will continue the lawsuit, claiming the “NFL tried to cover up the danger of concussion.”

    The NFL concussion epidemic is rising, with many more preceding cases. Last year, former Chicago Bears player Duerson died of a self-inflicted gunshot wound in 2011, which was linked to his 

    The epidemic is not only in the NFL, but stretches to the NHL and to boxing.

    Easterling was drafted in the ninth round of the 1972 NFL Draft by the Atlanta Falcons. He was part of the team’s “Gritz Blitz” defense which set the NFL record for fewest points allowed in a season in 1977.