In a game where the Tennessee Titans defense sacked Bengals quarterback Joe Burrow nine times in their playoff game, that should have been enough for the Titans to move on to the Conference Playoff.
However, in probably his worst game since donning Titans uniform a few years ago, quarterback Ryan Tannehill threw three interceptions, all at key junctures in the game, to hand the Bengals the win and eventually, a Super Bowl appearance.
Fingers were pointed squarely at the Titans QB for the defeat and there’s no doubt it affected Tannehill as he admitted in a press conference this past week.
“I Was In A Dark Place”
Speaking about that loss, Tannehill admitted “It is a deep scar.”
NASHVILLE, TENNESSEE – JANUARY 22: Ryan Tannehill #17 of the Tennessee Titans runs against the Cincinnati Bengals during the AFC Divisional Playoff at Nissan Stadium on January 22, 2022 in Nashville, Tennessee. (Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images)
“Every time I closed my eyes, I kind of rewatched the game. I didn’t get a whole lot of sleep for weeks. I was in a dark place, and it took me a while, a lot of work to get out of it.”
“I’ve worked through it, but therapy, talking to people, time helped. It took a lot of work to get through it.”
The quarterback has since stated that he can now look back on the game more objectively and that he aims to learn from the mistakes made.
Tannehill is one of a limited number of NFL stars who has admitted using therapy to help him deal with issues in the past, but stated that after the playoff defeat that this was the “first time that I absolutely needed it to pull me out of a dark space.”
The Titans star has said that he has now regained a more even kilter ahead of the forthcoming season and that Titans fans can expect him to carry the scar with him the rest of his life, but he is working hard to get ready for the new season with a “desire to win like he never had before.”
The talk of therapy and being in a ‘dark place’ a lack of sleep, mulling over past events and being in such a state for a long time is a clear indication that Tannehill was clearly suffering from either depression, or even Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder.
It is an issue that is routinely ignored by the NFL. Players are millionaires and are expected to be strong mentally as well as physically. Any weakness is fair game to exploit in the NFL.
But mental health is a key issue in the NFL. We are already seeing plenty of new rulings to stop players getting concussions, and certainly there are more stringent rules to stop players playing with them.
However, depression is perhaps still something that is not yet fully appreciated in the NFL for how damaging it can be, not solely for current players like Tannehill, but particularly for former players, many of whom have struggled with depression after their careers come to an end.
The list of former players that have struggled is a long one. Dwight Hollier, Eddie George, Eddie “Boo” Williams, Aaron Taylor, Ricky Williams, Terry Bradshaw and most tragically Junior Seau are just a handful of many for whom depression, or other forms of mental issues, have sidelined them following their careers.
The NFL is working hard to help players in their transition from professionals to new careers after they hang up their cleats, but as Tannehill’s comments show, there is also a need for players that are currently in the game to be supported.
Those pressures on top players in key positions, as the value of the NFL continues to rise, is only going to grow and in the future, it is likely more players will suffer with issues that Tannehill faced this off-season.
At the very least, Tannehill has a chance to put things right this season, but with the Titans also drafting a new QB in Malik Willis, the pressure he felt last year, may only increase.
FEATURED IMAGE – NASHVILLE, TENNESSEE – JANUARY 22: Quarterback Ryan Tannehill #17 of the Tennessee Titans is pressured by the Cincinnati Bengals defense during the first half of the AFC Divisional Playoff game at Nissan Stadium on January 22, 2022 in Nashville, Tennessee. (Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images)