Members of the Adams family have their own theories. They wonder whether football may have damaged his brain in the same way that has led other players to turn violent and, in a few cases, take their own lives.
On Thursday, Alonzo Adams, Phillip’s father, told WCNC, a Charlotte television station, “I think the football messed him up.” His sister, Lauren Adams, told USA Today that he had recently become uncharacteristically aggressive.
“His mental health degraded fast and terribly bad,” she said. “There was unusual behavior.”
Adams’s brain will be studied to determine whether he had chronic traumatic encephalopathy, or C.T.E., a degenerative brain disease associated with repeated hits to the head, according to Sabrina Gast, the coroner in York County. It can take months to receive a diagnosis for the disease, which has been linked to mood disorders, memory problems, impulsive behavior and other issues, and has been found in hundreds of former football players.
Former coaches, colleagues, neighbors and associates who knew Adams described him in interviews as a hard-working athlete who never advanced beyond journeyman status in the N.F.L., but who remained a quiet, helpful presence in town.
“In 43 years, if you would’ve told me that this would have happened with Phillip Adams, I would’ve put him in the last five of the thousands of kids I coached,” Montgomery said on Thursday. “It’s just a sad day.”
Duane Belue, a longtime friend and neighbor of the Adams family, said Phillip was close to his mother. Though Phillip had bought a new truck, he did not appear to overspend, and he stayed with his parents for extended periods. Within the last year, the Belues said they noticed that Phillip’s behavior had changed. He was less approachable and would pace outside aimlessly.
“We noticed in the yard, he was out walking, kind of sad,” Anne Belue said. “You can’t judge somebody that far away, but he was always real friendly before then.”