Many fans know Ray Lucas for his seven seasons in the NFL with the Jets, Dolphins and Patriots. But in his new book, Under Pressure: How Playing Football Almost Cost Me Everything And Why I'd Do It All Again, Lucas and David Seigerman give an uncensored look into the true culture of the NFL, and how the unending desire to stay on the field and in the league can lead to painkiller abuse and depression -- and end with fatal results. After he retired from the NFL in 2003, Lucas struggled with depression and painkiller addiction. He considered suicide, especially after the league and the union NFL and the Players Association said they couldn't help him. He considered painkillers since he was addicted to them: "I had enough of them around. When you take 1,400 pills a month, there was always a potentially lethal dose handy." In this excerpt, Lucas recounts how he plotted a suicide attempt.
One hundred million vehicles drive across the George Washington Bridge every year. I took it every time I drove home after practicing at the Jets facility on Long Island. I'd take the Cross Island Parkway to the Throgs Neck Bridge to the Cross Bronx Expressway to the GW, the busiest bridge in the world.
I was well acquainted with the George Washington Bridge, but I still felt I probably needed to drive it one more time. I needed to see it with a new set of eyes, not as a commuter looking to get home to his family, but as a man on a very different mission. I needed to find the best place along its mile-long span to drive my truck off the road and into the Hudson River 200 feet below.
That was the basic plan. I just needed to iron out the specifics.
I got in my truck and drove to the bridge, as clear and coherent as I had been in months. I was living in the moment, my endorphins flowing. This was going to work out all right after all.
I crossed over into Manhattan, scanning the possibilities provided by the upper level. All of a sudden, I was at the line of scrimmage, looking over the defense for a weakness one last time. I took note of the little guardrail that separated the pedestrian walkway from the four lanes of eastbound traffic.
This could make things a little tough.
So, I looped around and drove back the other way, heading west to Fort Lee. There's no westbound toll on the George Washington Bridge. Things were looking up already.
The westbound side didn't appear to have any more favorable options. It looked challenging, but not impossible.
Go lower. Go lower.
Good idea. I needed to check the lower level. Once I got back into Jersey, I turned around and did another loop of the bridge. I was really getting into this fact-finding expedition. I was laughing to myself and smiling. I even started to break into a little sweat.
But the lower level was no good -- steel support beams in an unbroken pattern of upright triangles all the way across. I couldn't have blasted my truck through those. I checked the lower level on the way back, too, just to be sure. Same deal.
Guess it's going to have to be the upper level.
Guess so. But I needed to do one more lap, just to make sure. I wound up making three consecutive round trips across the George Washington Bridge in a red truck that day, and no one noticed. You would've thought someone would have found this slightly suspicious and pulled my ass over. No one gets so lost that they do three laps around the GW.
But no one stopped me. Must have been my lucky day.
After exiting the upper level for the third and final time, I headed home to Harrison.
I'd planned my work. Soon, it'd be time to work my plan.
I would go on Sunday morning, after Cecy and our three girls left for church. I would drive to the GW, take the upper level approach, get through the tolls and the merge from 12 lanes down to four, pick a lane, and floor it. I knew I would need to pick up a high rate of speed, so that when I made my hard right, probably just beyond the halfway point, I'd have enough momentum to clear the guardrail, the pedestrian lane, and, finally, the outer guardrail. I figured my truck had the weight to carry me up and over, if I was going fast enough. As long as I didn't get caught up by one of the 592 steel suspender ropes that hold the bridge in place, I'd break through.
I figured somebody would see me go over. They'd see a red truck with Jersey tags, maybe even catch a few numbers off my license plate. Someone would be able to figure out who it was and get the news to my family.
I like it. Let's go.
(Postscript: Lucas eventually got help from Dr. William Focazio of Pain Alternatives, Solutions and Treatments in New Jersey. He went to rehab. He had neck surgery to alleviate the pain. Now Lucas is a broadcaster, covering the Jets for SNY, a regional cable channel, and providing radio commentary at Rutgers, his alma mater.)
-- Excerpted by permission from Under Pressure: How Playing Football Almost Cost Me Everything And Why I'd Do It All Again by Ray Lucas with David Seigerman. Copyright (c) 2014 by Ray Lucas with David Seigerman. Published by Triumph Books. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher. Available for purchase from the publisher, Amazon and Barnes & Noble. Follow Ray Lucas on Twitter @RayLucas06. Follow David Seigerman on @dseigs18.