Jamal Adams: 'Die on field' remark meant to convey passion for game

ByRich Cimini ESPN logo
Wednesday, August 2, 2017

FLORHAM PARK, N.J. -- Instructed by his coach to defuse the controversy he created, New York Jets rookie safetyJamal Adams attempted Tuesday to clarify what he meant when he told a fan forum the football field is "the perfect place to die."

Adams said he was surprised his comments -- which he made while responding to a fan's question about the degenerative brain disease chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE) -- sparked such a firestorm.

"Honestly, I really didn't see it getting that far," he told reporters after practice. "I was speaking about being passionate about the game that I love. I understand that some families were affected by this disease. I definitely didn't mean it in any type of way."

Adams said he decided to address it because coach Todd Bowles told him to "clear it up." He also spoke with his father, former NFL player George Adams, but declined to say what his father told him.

"When you see something that's blown up, that's on First Take and ESPN, I think it should be addressed," Adams said.

"My words were simply that I'm very passionate about what I do," he said. "I said at the beginning [of the forum] ... I'm all about making the game safer. I understand CTE and the symptoms and whatnot, and how families are affected by it, but it's simply about passion."

On Monday, the Jets conducted a fan forum with about 150 season-ticket holders. Commissioner Roger Goodell sat alongside Adams in the front of a packed auditorium. The issue of player safety and the recent CTE study came up.

"Literally, if I had the perfect place to die, I'd die on the field," Adams said.

Many in the crowd applauded the remarks. On Tuesday, Adams addressed the applause, saying, "I can't control what people ... how they viewed it."

On Monday night, the controversy grew when Keana McMahon, the former wife of late Pittsburgh Steelers offensive lineman Justin Strzelczyk, told the New York Daily News she was offended by Adams' comments.

"I don't even know what to say," she told the newspaper. "This guy [Adams] doesn't know what's coming down the pipeline. He has no idea what dealing with someone who has CTE is like."

McMahon, who was married to Strzelczyk for eight years, said he suffered from mood swings and volatile behavior. In September 2004, nine months after they divorced, Strzelczyk died in a fiery head-on collision with a tanker truck after he led state troopers on a 40-mile highway chase in New York.

Speaking after practice, Adams reiterated that his remarks stemmed from his passion for the game. Asked how much he loves football, he said, "It's indescribable. This is my playground. This is where I'm the most at peace."

Adams, the sixth pick in the draft, recently signed a guaranteed $22.3 million contract. He already has ascended to the starting lineup.