NEW YORK (CBSNewYork/AP) — Saying he had grown detached from his closest friends near the end of his life, Dennis Byrd’s ex-teammates are asking the former Jet’s widow to donate his brain for research.
Police said the crash happened about 11:15 a.m. between Oologah and Claremore, about 40 minutes northeast of Tulsa. A 17-year-old was driving a 2000 Ford Explorer that veered into the oncoming lane, striking the 2004 Hummer H2 that Byrd was driving, authorities said.
In 1992, Byrd was briefly paralyzed while playing for the Jets when he broke his neck after slamming headfirst into the chest of teammate Scott Mersereau. Byrd never fully recovered from the injury, walking with some difficulty and going through continuous rehabilitation during the years since.
Some of Byrd’s former teammates told ESPN they have suggested to Byrd’s wife, Angie, that she donate his brain to the Boston University clinic that studies the brain disease chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE).
“To me, it seems like a classic case of CTE, with the mood swings and behavioral issues,” former Jets defensive end Marvin Washington said.
“That wasn’t the Dennis I know and loved; it was the disease he had. I’m just trying to connect the dots.”
Added Jeff Lageman, also a former Jets defensive end: “Even in the early years, he isolated a little. Later on, he definitely got to the farther end of it.”
CTE is caused by concussions and other repeated head injuries. It may cause memory loss, confusion, erratic behavior, depression and dementia.
In 2015, researchers with the Department of Veterans Affairs and Boston University announced they had found CTE in 87 of 91 deceased former NFL players tested. Among those diagnosed with the disease are Hall of Famers Junior Seau, Frank Gifford and Mike Webster.
Meanwhile, the Jets will honor Byrd, who played for the team from 1989-92, by wearing No. 90 helmet decals during Monday night’s game against the Arizona Cardinals.