CHARLOTTE N.C. -- Football players are basically unrecognizable when they are in uniform....helmets, and even a protective visor conceal their identities. But make no mistake, behind the mask is a real person who is not immune from real world difficulties.
Two Sunday's ago, Panthers standout defensive end Mario Addison received word that his young brother, Gjamal Antonio Rodriqcus, was shot and killed in Addison's hometown of Birmingham, Alabama. He was just 27 years old.
“I'm fair. I always say I'm fair,” Addison told reporters Thursday. “I can't say I feel good. I can't say I'm happy. Can't say I'm sad. Depressed, angry, because I am all of them at once. And it can change every two minutes. So....I'm fair."
Last week, Addison was excused from team activites to attend to the matters of saying goodbye to his brother, who according to Addison, had begun to turn his life in a positive direction. Addison's loss was felt by his teammates. Kyle Love brought Addison's jersey to the field to show his comrade was with the team, if only in spirit.
"Everybody that is here, they checked on me. They comforted me real well. I am happy that we do have a counselor here. Tish."
‘Tish,’ is Tish Guerin. Listed in the team media guide as the team's Director of Player Wellness. She is employed by the team as part of an NFL initiative that went into effect this season, a plan announced jointly by the league and the players association in May.
"I think it's important that these players do have somebody,” said head coach Ron Rivera. “These are young men that are in different situations than they are used to. The more we learn about how to help these guys, I think the more we'll be able to do for them."
Birmingham police arrested a suspect days after the shooting, but the pain lingers for Addison.
"The mind is a powerful thing. It can be your downfall,” said Addison. “My main focus is to try my best to block out all the negative things, and think about all the positive things, so that's what i am battling right now.”
And it's a battle he will not fight alone.