Former All-Pro NFL running back Jamal Lewis said he has considered suicide as he struggles with medical issues and depression, in an interview with Bleacher Report published Tuesday.
“You think about death,” Lewis said. “I’ve thought about suicide. I’ve thought about ending it all.”
Now 38 and retired for more than eight years, the former Baltimore Ravens and Cleveland Browns back added that he regularly struggles to breathe through his nose — he has had polyps clogging his nasal passages for six months — and battles sleep apnea, headaches, depression and a fluctuating temper. He discussed many of his own concerns in the context of three former teammates, Ravens offensive linemen Orlando Bobo, Orlando Brown, and Damion Cook, who died of health-related issues.
“You just have those thoughts about should you end it?” he said. “I can only imagine with sleep apnea and heart attacks and heart disease. Who wants to go out like that? Especially when you have people upset with you — your wife upset with you, pissed off, you have to file bankruptcy, made bad decisions...”
Lewis said he has never gotten as far as planning his death, but he is not completely rid of suicidal thoughts, saying, “It’s not over. I have to keep moving.”
Taken fifth overall in the 2000 draft by the Ravens, Lewis topped 1,000 rushing yards in seven of the nine seasons in which he played, including five of six in Baltimore. In 2003, he posted what stands as the third-largest single-season rushing total in NFL history (2,066 yards) and scored 14 touchdowns en route to his the only Pro Bowl and All-Pro selections of his career.
He joined the Browns in 2007 and played three seasons, before retiring at age 30.
Lewis estimates he suffered at least 10 concussions and was knocked unconscious two or three times during his playing career, adding that he frequently used Novacain to numb painful injuries and drank alcohol when the medication wore off after games.
He said he has asked the NFL three times for disability pay but has been turned down. The league declined to comment on Bleacher Report’s story.
Lewis has also dealt with financial issues since retiring, filing for bankruptcy in 2012 while owing millions in debt. He sold a Super Bowl XLVII ring — which he received from owner Steve Bisciotti in honorary fashion in 2013 for being one of the team’s all-time greats — for more than $50,000 in an auction in 2015.
Lewis played for the Ravens’ first Super Bowl team, the Super Bowl XXXV champions, in his rookie year in 2000.
—Field Level Media