Chris Brymer: Head Case 

Ex-football players with head injuries often end up in the criminal-justice system. The former USC lineman is Exhibit A

Thursday, Sep 30 2010

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There are those who want to help. Within hours of a reporter first calling Himebauch, Brymer's former USC teammate — who also went on to play with him in NFL Europe and the XFL — and three other USC friends had called, asking about the details of his incarceration, the name of his attorney, the address of the jail where he was being held, and any advice on what they could do to help.

Former Rhein Fire teammate Heimburger says Brymer should be institutionalized or referred for medical treatment. "Someone should help, and if the state can't help people like that, that's kind of sad," he says. "We pay all these taxes, and if someone's falling apart like that, somebody should be able to help put them back together."

Seth Steward, spokesman for the San Francisco District Attorney's Office, says prosecutors are careful to evaluate a defendant's mental capacity, particularly as it relates to his state of mind and intentions when an alleged crime was committed. "We definitely take that stuff into consideration," he says. In Brymer's case, however, Steward says it's unclear whether any mental disorder is present in the first place: "I don't even know if we have any evidence of that yet."

click to flip through (8) ILLUSTRATION BY DOUG FRASER

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The people's case against Chris Brymer, the offensive guard who fell apart after years of protecting others on the field, begins this week. Regardless of its results, the punishment Brymer's mental and emotional snap has exacted on him and those close to him can already be tallied.

Melissa Brymer, for one, feels sick as she watches the 7-year-old child she had with Brymer — who is not allowed to make contact with his son, according to court restrictions following their divorce — grow to resemble his absent dad more and more. "He's already a foot taller than everyone else in his class. He looks like a lineman already, and I'm terrified," she says.

Brymer's situation, like that of other former football players coping with probable CTE, creates uncomfortable questions for those who watch, play or make money from our preferred national spectacle. To what extent are we complicit in the havoc football might be wreaking on individual lives? What special consideration do we owe the sport's broken athletes, in the courtroom or outside it?

For Melissa Brymer, who witnessed the aftermath of her ex-husband's professional sports career, the question raised by CTE is more immediate. Will she let her boy play football, running the same risks as his father? "I could never see my son turn hollow like that," she says. "I do not want him anywhere near the sport."

E-mail the author at Peter.Jamison@SFWeekly.com.

Reach the writer at peter.jamison@sfweekly.com

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