Coroner: Former Bears top pick Rashaan Salaam committed suicide
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Rashaan Salaam committed suicide earlier this month by shooting himself in the head, a coroner’s report stated Thursday.
The former Bears first-round draft pick was found dead Dec. 5 in a park near his girlfriend’s car in Boulder, Colo., where he won the Heisman Trophy at the University of Colorado. The 42-year-old left a suicide note, according to the Boulder County Coroner’s Office, and had both a history of depression and “recent life stressors.”
He had a blood-alcohol content of 0.25 — more than three times the driving limit in the state — and THC, the chemical intoxicant in marijuana, in his system.
Salaam’s family was offered but declined having doctors examine Salaam’s brain for chronic traumatic encephalopathy before the autopsy. It was presumably for religious reasons; Salaam was Muslim. His brother Jabali Alaji told USA Today earlier this month Salaam had “all the symptoms” of CTE while alive.
The Bears drafted Salaam in 1995 after he won the Heisman as a junior. He missed more than two weeks of training camp during a contract holdout and didn’t make his first start until Week 4. He ran for 1,074 yards as a 21-year-old, though, and was named NFC Offensive Rookie of the Year.
He ran for 496 yards in 12 games during the 1996 season, broke his leg in the third game of the 1997 campaign and was cut the next year. He told ESPN at the time that marijuana made him lackadaisical, and helped contribute to his 14 fumbles with the Bears.
He resurfaced for one final NFL carry as a Browns player in 1999.
Earlier this month, former Bears coach Dave Wannstedt said his injuries helped derail Salaam’s career; when he was drafted, he said, the Bears had dreams of Salaam becoming the next Walter Payton.
“I don’t have an answer,” he said of his death. “I don’t know. It’s so sad. He was a so young. It’s just tragic.”