Former NFL player Phillip Adams battled concussions and was arrested before ‘murder-suicide’

Phillip Adams, the former NFL cornerback accused of killing his doctor and four others in South Carolina before committing suicide early Thursday, suffered several concussions during his football career and was also arrested for assault and carrying a concealed weapon, according to records.

On Thursday, Adams’s father Alonzo told Charlotte, North Carolina station WCNC that he blames football for what happened to his son.

‘I can say he’s a good kid,’ Alonzo Adams said. ‘I think the football messed him up.’ 

Alonzo Adams did not go into further detail, but  Phillip suffered at least two concussions while playing for the Oakland Raiders in 2015, although he curiously missed only one game because of the brain injuries.  

One of those concussions occurred in a game against Cleveland when Adams collided with a teammate while hauling in an interception.

He was later asked by to describe what was going through his head on the play.

‘I don’t know,’ Adams said. ‘I couldn’t tell you, but my teammates, the whole secondary we’re all going for that ball in the heat of the battle. I was kind of woozy, but, we got the turnover and I was happy about that.’

Raiders spokespeople in Las Vegas did not immediately respond to’s request for more information about Adams’s concussion history.  

Before turning pro, Adams was arrested for misdemeanor assault and battery in 2009, although he was not convicted. He was also arrested in Charlotte for carrying a concealed gun in 2016. 

Mecklenburg County (North Carolina) court officials did not immediately respond to’s request for more information.  

Adams, a cornerback out of South Carolina State, was a seventh-round NFL Draft pick in 2010. 

Although he was never a standout in the league, he did play regularly over six seasons with the San Francisco 49ers, New England Patriots, Seattle Seahawks, Raiders, New York Jets, and Atlanta Falcons. His best seasons came in his two years in Oakland, where he appeared in 31 games and recorded a pair of interceptions. He also had success as a punt returner. 

Adams earned just over $3 million over parts of his six NFL season, according to

The Associated Press reported that Adams’s parents lived near his victims, who included Dr. Robert Lesslie, 70, and his wife, Barbara Lesslie, 69, as well as grandchildren Adah Lesslie, 9, and Noah Lesslie, 5. 

Adams was reportedly a patient of Lesslie, who worked for decades as an emergency room doctor. It is not known publicly why Lesslie was treating Adams, or if any head injury was involved. 

Concussions have not been definitively linked to chronic traumatic encephalopathy, the degenerative brain disease believed to be caused by repeated blows to the head.  

CTE can only be diagnosed posthumously.

Several former NFL players who were diagnosed with CTE died by suicide, including Adams’s former Patriots teammate, Aaron Hernandez, who hanged himself in prison following a murder conviction.

‘We don’t know why people get CTE,’ Manning told in 2018. ‘I think the most that it’s been looked at is in football players, but all that we know is what the brain looks like after they die. We don’t know what happens during people’s lives. We also don’t know how the findings correlate with people’s symptoms.’

As Manning explained, there is no established connection between football and CTE, nor is there a proven link between concussions and CTE: ‘There’s a lot of research that needs to be done to fill in the blanks there.’ 

To many, the 2017 Boston University CTE Center study that posthumously diagnosed 110 out of 111 former NFL players with the disease seemed rather convincing, if not conclusive. 

According to Lee E. Goldstein, a professor at Boston University School of Medicine and College of Engineering, concussions may not be an indicator for CTE, which can lead to lead to behavioral or cognitive issues, and even dementia.

‘We have a substantial number of cases in the [brain] bank who have died and meet the neuropathological diagnostic criteria for CTE, and have never had a concussion,’ Goldstein told in 2019.

‘We see these young people…17-year olds with evidence of CTE,’ he continued. ‘There shouldn’t be any evidence of any neurodegenerative disease at that age. We know that we have quite a number of cases in people of that age, early 20s or late teens, who have never had a witnessed, documented concussion in their life.’

Goldstein was a part of the Boston University research team that published a ground-breaking study showing that exposure to repeated head trauma – and not necessarily concussions – was the root cause of CTE.

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Bourbiza Mohamed. Writer and Political Discourse Analysis.

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