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Packers offer full support for Cole Madison, whose football future is unclear

-- It's looking more and more like the Green Bay Packers will be without Cole Madison for the foreseeable future.

One of the team's fifth-round picks from a year ago is continuing to battle the lingering impacts of a traumatic personal event that shaped his decision to play football.

"He's still dealing with some of the things that he was dealing with at the beginning of the season last year," general manager Brian Gutekunst said at the Senior Bowl last month, according to Michael Cohen of The Athletic. "Obviously we wish him the best and we'd love to, at some point, get him out there on the field to help us. But when that time is going to be, we're not there yet."

The Packers selected Madison at No. 138 overall last year, expecting him to help eventually fill in one of their interior positions along the offensive line. Instead, they entered 2018 with Lane Taylor at left guard and a carousel on the right between Justin McCray and Byron Bell.

By now, Madison would likely be the player the Packers expected him to be -- or at least showing signs of such. Instead, it is believed that the tragic suicide of his close friend and former teammate, Washington State quarterback Tyler Hilinski, turned him away from the sport completely.

It wasn't until the players broke away for a brief summer break between minicamp and training camp that Madison's decision -- for now -- was truly set in stone.

Testing showed that Hilinski had stage one of chronic traumatic encephalopathy, or CTE, at the time of his death. Such a grim discovery could be enough to deter someone almost entirely from chasing a dream such as playing in the NFL.

Madison only appeared for rookie orientation through minicamp, and Cohen notes that the Packers haven't tried to recoup any of Madison's salary from his rookie deal.

Gutekunst reiterated that the Packers are offering their full support for Madison, whose football future takes a backseat until the state of his mental health, rightfully prioritized above all else, is in a condition proper for playing.


Zachary Jacobson is a staff writer/reporter for Cheesehead TV. He's the voice of The Leap on iTunes and can be heard on The Scoop KLGR 1490 AM every Saturday morning. He's also a contributor on the Pack-A-Day Podcast. He can be found on Twitter via @ZachAJacobson or contacted through email at [email protected].

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Fan friendly comments only: off Comments (43) This filter will hide comments which have ratio of 5 to 1 down-vote to up-vote.

Bearmeat's picture

You can't blame him. It's his body. Sucks for us though.

Lare's picture

I have no problem with Madison making decisions that are best for him and his future, we all do the same thing every day with our own lives.

That said, if he isn't ever going to play again he should do the right thing and give the Packers their money back. That's what Chris Borland did.

Rak47's picture

I lost a few of my buddies in Iraq and Afghanistan so I get it. It's tressful and not easy to deal with, But seriously this guy must've been his gay lover if he can't move past reality. Either that or he's emotionally very very weak. Either way Packer need to move on and ask for their money back.

mp4x's picture

Gay lover? A man can't be good friends with another man and be seriously traumatized by his friend killing himself, over what is likely caused by concussions? Maybe he really wants to play football, but doesn't want to end up like his friend and is keeping his options open. Grieving a good friend should never be considered "very very weak", but rather "very very human". Prick.

Dusty's picture

To be fair to Rak, a lot of us started hearing this rumor before preseason was complete.
Everyone here wants an answer (don't pretend you don't), just because someone throws up all the possibilities doesn't make him a prick or homophobe.

Doug Niemczynski's picture

there is no such word. Its made up. Ridiculous.

Skip greenBayless's picture

Rak em', I give you credit for saying what you did as unpopular as it was. I was thinking the same thing. Nothing else explains this. The Packers have been more than patient with this guy. I am sure he's received counseling paid for by the Packers. It's too bad whatever happened with him but it's time to move on from this guy. As the saying goes, life goes on.


fthisJack's picture


carlos's picture

It is a tough world we live In and tragedy is all around us. There does come a time when you have to move on and go after you’re God given talents,whatever they are, and go forward. Do it in the name of your friend. Ask, “What would he want me to do?” I’m sure his friend would want him to march on. I understand that we don’t know the circumstances, but hope he can get hisself on track. It’s possible concussions may have had nothing to do with it. Who knows? Cole may not have the slightest idea either. I also lost a good friend to the same things. It’s a shock for everyone.

Doug Niemczynski's picture

I need full support emotionally for our disastrous year.

CheesyTex's picture

Gute may too. It sure looked like he may have found an answer at RG in Madison. Instead, it now looks like a wasted draft choice. Tough luck at a position of need, as was obvious last season.

But kudos to Gute for sticking by the kid...

The TKstinator's picture

Yes, it’s a classy move on GB’s part.

Coldworld's picture

I don’t have a problem with his wanting to step away or the team understating that. I think that there comes a point where one just needs to accept that this isn’t going to happen and move on. That point should be if he is not present for preseason work. At that point we are doing neither the team nor Madison any favors continuing to pay him. He will need to move on with whatever avenue of life he selects. For now, we must draft or acquire as if his career is over. Simple as that.

Bert's picture

I have no problem with Madison or any other player for having second thoughts about playing in the NFL. It's a tough business with health risks galore. I just wish Madison the best with whatever he decides to do moving forward. Also, the beginnings of CTE in Tyler Hilinski points out a problem that many people don't discuss. It's not just playing in the NFL that causes CTE. The brain damage is typically cumulative over many years of dings on the head. Not just head trauma after they reach the NFL.

Minniman's picture

..... yes for his own sake he needs to decide which path to take, it will help the healing process for him.

That's not being callous (I hope that I post here enough for people to gauge that it's not my style), but there's a time to grieve and a time to move on.

Out of curiosity I'd like to know which positions are the most prone to CTE - or if it is an even distribution?

Old School's picture

I wish him the best. Packers need to find somebody better than Spriggs at tackle.

Lare's picture

Amen to that!

carlos's picture

Agree Oldschool. I’ve been saying that all along.

Bure9620's picture

Very difficult time for the young man. I have to believe he is re examining or has examined football all together.

porupack's picture

thanks for filling us in. I've been wondering what was happening in the situation. Wish him all the best.

Big Moe's picture

Wish him all the best, hope things work out for him.

Since '61's picture

The longer Madison stays away from the game the longer and harder it will be for him to get ready to play if he ever does return.

I wish him well but I’m beginning to doubt that we will ever see him on the field. Thanks, Since ‘61

ChuckCecilKO's picture

So do the Packers receive any compensation for a player drafted that refuses to take the field? An extra compensation pick this year?

carlos's picture

I believe nothing Chuck. Luck of the draw.

sam1's picture

It would seem his NFL career will never get off the ground. Can't blame the id though for being cautious and thoughtful about his future!

nostradanus's picture

Yep, this is too bad and I wish the kid well.

It looked like he was going to be a good player, but if he's not committed then it's time to move on.

The Packers are a classy organization and treat these guys with respect when problems like these arise.

Go Pack!

Point Packer's picture

I've read a couple of times that Madison supplied the AR-15 that his friend used to commit suicide.

Lare's picture

I don't know if "supplied" is the best word. Yes, Madison owned the rifle but Hilinski took it without his knowledge.

Oppy's picture

I have SPECULATED that could be the case, but I do not believe it has ever been REPORTED that Madison was connected to the rifle.

To the best of my knowledge, the only thing that was reported was that the rifle used was owned by a team mate who has never been named, and that the owner of the rifle did not willingly give the rifle- it went missing about a week before the suicide.

If you have read otherwise, kindly provide a link to the source of that information. It is, IMO, too sensitive a subject to state definitively that Madison owned the rifle if it is purely speculation.

Swisch's picture

Heartening to see the Packers and fans here at Cheesehead TV supporting Cole Madison.
At some point, perhaps he can channel his life struggles into flattening defensive players.
In any case, I hope he finds a way that works for him.
God bless, Cole.

mamasboy's picture

Why aren't we hearing about hundreds of suicides by players from the past, who were playing a far more violent form of the game? You'd think that we would be hearing about a suicide epidemic. I can't blame Madison for an emotional decision after losing a friend, I might do the same. But his friend might have committed suicide if he never played a down of football.

Lare's picture

I don't think that Hilinski's suicide is the main issue with Madison. Hilinski committed suicide on January 16th which was months before the combine, before individual workouts, before the draft, before rookies minicamp and before OTA's.

Due to the timing of it, I think it's more about Madison's concerns about CTE or the other physical tolls professional football takes on the bodies of players..

mamasboy's picture

That could be it Lare. I don't know.

Mike Wendlandt's picture

I think part of it was that Hillinski showed signs of CTE in his autopsy, which wasn't released for awhile. And in the months that follow the loss of a close friend, I'm sure that a lot of things went through Cole's mind asking "Why?" I hope the best for him to try to have a healthy and full life, even if he never plays football again.

Mike Wendlandt's picture

We aren't hearing about a rash of suicides from older players because it already happened about 10 years ago. Andre Waters, Junior Seau are the most notable names, but there was a disturbing amount of guys who took their own lives during that time.

Swisch's picture

Another tragic case is Dave Duerson of the Bears.
I grew up in the suburbs of Chicago, and spent my young adult years in and around the city, so I couldn't help rooting for the Bears -- although my first allegiance remained firmly with the Packers.
I actually took a lot of heat, in the form of teasing, for being a steadfast Packers fan in the midst of Bears territory during the '70s and '80s
I may be the only person in America who has rooted for both teams.
Anyway, I did celebrate sincerely the Bears of the Super Bowl Shuffle, and was exceedingly sad to hear of Dave Duerson's struggles.
I earnestly hope that football players, and all people suffering mental illness, are more likely to get help these days. Please, no more suicides!

scullyitsme's picture

I’m not going to pretend I care or don’t care or whatever, but the packers need to move on already. 1 year, I’ll give him, if he can’t play going into two? Again, move on.

Ferrari Driver's picture

Cole is concerned about his health and more power to him. He is not the first that come to mind. I recall a linebacker who was a Badgers player, Chris Borland, who had a successful first year with the 49ers and then walked away because of the potential long term brain damage.

A Pickled Packer's picture

Knowing now the reason Madison doesn't want to play and his decision to stay away from the game may be the tip of the iceberg as individuals reevaluate their love of the sport and it's capacity to bring fame and fortune. What good is all that if it gives you brain damage. He's maybe being smarter than we realize. His father may have said to him "son we have the money, your loved by your family, no need to risk your life, pursue your college degree further become somebody that way, we'll support you and just walk away.

KnockTheSnotOutOfYou's picture

Does anyone know if he graduated or is back in school?

realitybytez's picture

yes, i'm pretty sure someone knows.

Thegreatreynoldo's picture

I agree that GB has handled this well. I am assuming that the reason for Madison's absence is due to his friend's suicide with CTE being at most a small factor in his issues, particularly since someone he presumably knew well was diagnosed with CTE at such a young age.

I assume this isn't a Borland situation where the player (as far as I know there was no personal connection) read the recent CTE medical studies and made a conscious decision based on the facts that the risks of playing football outweighed the benefits.

It is easy to spend someone else's money. In Madison's case, so far the amount in question is $81K, so GB isn't dealing with a $10M issue of principle. I believe Chicago paid money to their TE, Miller ($458K) even though they weren't contractually required to do so. That's a classy move. Pittsburgh arguably also made some classy moves with Shazier, though Pittsburgh could derive some benefit if Shazier can play in 2019. MN kept Griffen on the active roster for five weeks. The dollar amount in question was $1.14M, but: a) I don't see how that expenditure could have been avoided and b) MN expected him to return, or hoped he would, which he did.

carlos's picture

I don’t think Shazier should play again. Green Bay is known, for the most part, to do what is right. A classy organization. For the most part the NFL is a classy, despite being a huge profit, business. Could be a lot worse.

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