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Cardinals, Jay Glazer Lead Mental Health Work With MVP Kickoff Event

MVP (Merging Vets and Players) Association helps ex-military and players

Jay Glazer addresses military vets about mental health as Cardinals offensive lineman Justin Pugh sits next to him during the MVP Kickoff Event Tuesday afternoon in the practice bubble at the Dignity Health Training Center.
Jay Glazer addresses military vets about mental health as Cardinals offensive lineman Justin Pugh sits next to him during the MVP Kickoff Event Tuesday afternoon in the practice bubble at the Dignity Health Training Center.

Justin Pugh hears the question constantly: How could NFL players have mental health issues?

They have millions of dollars in the bank and worldwide fame, the perks of being the one-percenters. But the offensive lineman wants people to know money and status don't make him less susceptible to average citizen problems.

Like many others, Pugh has acknowledged his struggles with mental health. So when the MVP (Merging Vets and Players) Association began a few years ago, joining became a no-brainer.

"We're human at the end of the day," Pugh said. "We have the same fear and anxiety everyone else has. To be in a group like this is great, so we can discuss it.

"I struggled earlier in my career and a defining moment came for me: Do I want to continue playing in the NFL and do what it takes, or bow out with the mental side getting the best of me?"

In the practice bubble at the Dignity Healthy Training Center on Tuesday, the MVP group gathered, starting with 30 minutes of fitness activities. Team owner Michael Bidwill, two cheerleaders, linebacker Dennis Gardeck, and Pugh were in attendance watching retired vets and athletes engage in different exercises.

Fox Sports NFL insider Jay Glazer led the discussion afterward when people sat midfield to discuss their battles with mental health. For the group, it's about tackling the issues instead of running from them. The belief is weekly sessions of physical fitness and peer-to-peer support can accomplish that goal.

Glazer started the foundation six years ago in his living room to address mental health issues athletes and combat veterans face during and after their uniform comes off. Glazer, who deals with depression, anxiety, and ADD, felt the need to help others worldwide with the group.

Glazer published a book called "Unbreakable," detailing how he turned his mental health struggles into motivation.

"It's needed," Glazer said. "There are 22 vets today that kill themselves. It's just not okay. This is my 30th year covering the NFL; I've seen too many of my friends go by the wayside. God blessed me with a big voice to do something about it.

"It made too much sense to put these two together. Our combat vets do such great things but when the uniform comes off, who reminds them of their greatness? Same with these players. Them playing in the NFL is not who they are. What's behind the rib cage that got them millions? That's who they are. That greatness suddenly doesn't just leave when the uniform comes off. If you put them together, you can remind each other of their greatness, then start building this family."

The chapter has reached eight United States cities, including Phoenix. Gardeck hopes more people facing mental health battles don't shy from reaching out for help.

"The earlier, the better," the linebacker said. "Once you're able to start having those conversations, you understand how much better you're going to feel.

"Part of opening up, you realize how many people have had similar situations and it creates a bond. Being vulnerable allows you to help others because you receive that support, but people hear your story and can connect to that."

Images of the MVP (Merging Vets and Players) kickoff event at the Dignity Health Sports Complex

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