NFL VP of Player Engagement Troy Vincent: Coaches Must Shift the Mindset in Order to Prevent Tragic IncidentsDecember 4, 2012 – 5:45 am by Brad Gagnon
There are a lot of questions and still very few answers regarding Jovan Belcher’s decision to take the life of the mother of his child before turning the gun on himself Saturday. But without jumping to conclusions, NFL vice president of player engagement Troy Vincent can already state confidently that yet another tragic incident involving the death of a player has to reinforce the need for a new mentality inside the locker rooms of professional sports teams.
Troy Vincent joined LaVar and Dukes on 106.7 The Fan in Washington, D.C., to discuss the Jovan Belcher murder-suicide and how it should impact the way players deal with situations in which teammates display warning signs that something is amiss. He also touched on how pro athletes resolve conflicts and cope with trials and tribulations off the field.
On if there’s one cause he can point to in regard to the Jovan Belcher tragedy:
“A troubled individual. There have been many conflicting stories. We’re still gathering information here at our office. We do know that there was two lives that were taken away, and the cause of why Jovan would go in this direction, we’re all puzzled, we’re all still trying to figure it out. But what was the cause of him going in this direction? Whether it was painkillers, we’ve heard stories of head trauma, relationship issues — we lost two lives.”
On the coping mechanisms that certain pro athletes might lack:
“It’s unfortunate that when you have occurrences such as this, we take the helmet off and we now humanize the individual. And that’s our primary focus here in what we do inside of player engagement, is really try to build the total man. … And what comes to mind was another constant reminder after this horrific event of how much work we have to do. This is another perfect example of what I would say [is] the modern 21st-century athlete — a young man that, when we look at the athlete and his coping skills, that’s something that’s not taught. We don’t focus in on the pressures that comes along with not just the game, [but] life balance. And if we don’t address this, these are things that we inherit. And when we look at Jovan’s situation, and many others — O.J., Junior — we can go back to their upbringing, high school, college. And this is something that we have to address of balancing. When is it time to go seek help?”
On the conflict-resolution habits in pro athletes:
“One of our main focuses here is conflict resolution. And as young men, as athletes, not just in football … we deal with conflict in a physical confrontation. We don’t have to properly communicate; we don’t have to open our mouths on the football field to communicate our displeasure. It’s a physical confrontation. But in the real world, when you take the uniform off, when there’s conflict, when there’s a breakdown in communication, we have to be able to learn to communicate properly to resolve conflict without physical confrontation or harm.”
On the onus on players to take care of one another and recognize warning signs:
“We have to begin to take care of one another. It’s now time for us to rally the troops and talk about these issues, because we’re talking about five occasions. This has occurred four, five times over the last 12 months. Somebody’s had to witness a change of personality and we gotta rally together.”
On if this is a new phenomenon:
“The trend is running very similar to that of normal society. Just in 2012, we talked about the five occasions, and what we want to do is gather facts. We had someone of the age of 66, 62, 43, 25 and 25. We really want to investigate so that we get all the facts, so that we can make the decision on where we need to continue to service the families, the family members, and how we best can assist in our messaging. … We’re a little all over the board because I have some that were some elders at 66, and our last two was 25. So when we look at that population, that’s a pretty big gap between a young man and someone that’s a senior. So we want to gather all of our facts here. We want to look at it and say, ‘OK, how do we get better?’ What can we do to get better to assist these families and these young men and the way they cope in real-life situations?’”
On how players can improve at recognizing these situations and preventing tragedies like these from happening:
“I would say No. 1 it’s going to take coaches shifting the mindset. And it’s not going to happen over night. We’re about a generation away from it just becoming the way that we live our lives. We see each other hurting, we see each other when we’re not feeling well, depressed, whatever it may be. But the way that we’ve been wired is not to share. And we have to change that mentality.”