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May 2, 2012: Looking back on a sobering day in the NFL

I'll always remember the 2012 offseason for two days.

The first is March 21. Just one day after Peyton Manning was introduced as a Denver Bronco, Tim Tebow was traded to the New York Jets and New Orleans Saints coach Sean Payton was suspended by the NFL for the entire 2012 season.

The second day, of course, is May 2.

You never know what you'll wind up writing about when the day starts. Mine started at Around the League with one of my favorite stories of the offseason. By mid-afternoon, it felt like one of the most depressing days in recent NFL history.

Eric LeGrand's surprise signing in Tampa Bay was the type of symbolic, sentimental moment that so rarely happens in professional sports. LeGrand spoke to reporters with composure, determination and appreciation for what his coach, Greg Schiano, did for him. LeGrand relayed the moment he first found out from Schiano about the honor.

"I said, 'I don't even know what to say right now. This is amazing, coach, thank you.' Dreams do come true if you really believe," LeGrand said.

LeGrand's story is sad in so many ways, but he has attacked his rehabilitation from his spinal-cord injuries with relentless positivity.

The next big story to hit was less uplifting, although New York Giants quarterback Eli Manning found the only positive we can think of following the suspension of four NFL players for participating in the Saints' bounty program.

"(Commissioner Roger Goodell) is doing the right thing to make sure that this doesn't happen ever again," Manning said.

Most players did not agree. Saints linebacker Jonathan Vilma, who was suspended for the season for placing bounties on Brett Favre and Kurt Warner, reallydisagreed. No matter how you felt about the severity of the suspensions, this topic has grown exhausting for most fans. Something had to be done, but we didn't become football fans to follow stories like this.

Then Junior Seau's tragic death stopped the day in its tracks. Those who loved the 43-year-old retired linebacker found his passing to be such an incomprehensible loss that we don't know what else to say.

"I can't put into words how I'm feeling right now," Chargers owner Dean Spanos said. "I'm shocked and devastated. Junior was my friend. We all lost a friend today. Junior was an icon in our community. He transcended the game. He wasn't just a football player, he was so much more. He was loved by everyone in our family, our organization and throughout the NFL. This is just such a tragic loss. One of the worst things I could ever imagine. My prayers go out to Junior's family. It's heartbreaking."

Seau's death ultimately made it a heartbreaking day for everyone who loves football. Three stories, connected by chance and an undercurrent of violence, will live on together.

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