Former Tampa Bay Buccaneers wide receiver Vincent Jackson, who was found dead Monday in a hotel outside Tampa, struggled with chronic alcoholism, the local sheriff said.
While the cause and manner of death are pending, and the Hillsborough County Medical Examiner's Office said an autopsy could take months to complete, preliminary findings suggest an issue with alcoholism was a contributing factor, according to Hillsborough County Sheriff Chad Chronister.
“We haven't got the toxicology report back so I can't say with any certainty that that was it,” he told radio station Q105 on Wednesday. “But a lot of longstanding health conditions contributed to his passing because of some alcohol abuse.”
The sheriff's comments were made two days after a housekeeper at the Homewood Suites in Brandon went to check on Jackson and found him dead.
During the interview, Chronister also said Jackson’s family was concerned the former NFL player might have had issues with chronic traumatic encephalopathy, also known as CTE. The disease is a form of brain degeneration associated with concussions and has been found in former players, including former New England Patriot Aaron Hernandez.
CTE can only be diagnosed by studying sections of the brain post-mortem, during an autopsy. Little is known about the disease but it is tied to emotional instability, memory loss, substance abuse and other cognitive impairments, according to the Mayo Clinic.
The NFL has acknowledged that there is a link between CTE and playing football, and has overhauled its concussion protocols in recent years to impose stricter penalties and restrictions on players
Former San Diego Chargers quarterback Ryan Leaf gave an emotional speech posted to his social media Monday, saying to followers he didn’t “know what the f--- to do anymore” as his “NFL brothers continue to die.”
Leaf accused the NFL of not caring for players or their mental health, alleging the league stops caring once players become “bad for the brand.”
“I don't know what the h--- to do. They don't get how precious life is,” Leaf said. “And then I have this f------ survivor's guilt because of it.”
He also urged his followers to be “part of the solution.”
The NFL did not immediately respond to a request for comment from NBC News.
Jackson, a child from a military family and a self-proclaimed middle class upbringing, was widely praised for his work both on and off the field. The former wide receiver began investing in restaurants, real estate and fitness clubs as a player to help prepare for his post-NFL future.
He also created a charity called the Jackson In Action 83 Foundation, which worked to support military families and children.
The Chargers, who drafted Jackson in 2005, praised his life’s work in a statement following his death.
"Vincent was a fan favorite not only for his Pro Bowl play on the field, but for the impact he made on the community off of it," the team said in a statement. "The work he has done on behalf of military families through his foundation in the years since his retirement has been an inspiration to all of us."