Carolina Panthers

‘A whole lot of mixed emotions’: Mario Addison returns to Panthers after brother’s death

There is no playbook for handling loss.

Some people are overcome with anger. Others, a deep sadness. Sometimes there are feelings of guilt, or remorse, or emptiness.

Mario Addison has all those emotions at once.

The Carolina Panthers’ leading pass-rusher missed all of last week to be in Birmingham, Alabama, where he and his family had to cope with the loss of Addison’s younger brother, Gjamal Antonio Rodriqcus.

Rodriqcus, 27, was shot the day of the Panthers’ loss to San Francisco and later died in the hospital.

“I’m fair. I always say I’m fair,” Addison said Thursday, speaking to reporters for the first time since his return.

“I can’t say I feel good. I can’t say I’m happy. Can’t say I’m sad, depressed, or angry, because I’m all of them. Like all of them in one, and it can change every two minutes, you know what I’m saying?”

The Jeeps

Yet surrounded by cameras, Addison still mustered the strength to address his situation in full. And again, the full spectrum of emotions was on display. Like pride, for instance.

“The thing that hurt me the most about my little brother getting killed is that he was getting his life together, and he did everything I told him to do. Everything,” Addison said. “He got his license; he started working. And I told him, ‘G, go get any kind of job, whatever kind of job you can find. Get you a job and hold it down for three to four months.’

“ ’If you prove to me you can do that, then I got you.’ ”

Addison said he recently had two Jeep Wranglers made for his younger brothers — Rodriqcus and another 29-year-old brother experiencing similar struggles — that he planned to give them after they followed his guidance. One was orange, the other red-and-white. And when Addison gave his oldest brother his Jeep, Rodriqcus took notice.

“It made G stand up and want it: ‘I’m gonna do better, I’m gonna do everything that my brother wants me to do,’ ” Addison said. “Then as soon as I presented him the Jeep, couple days later he got shot up in the Jeep.”

According to media reports, local police in Birmingham responded to an altercation around 7:15 p.m. and discovered both Rodriqcus and a female inside the vehicle with gunshot wounds.

Days later, police arrested 22-year-old Darius Frazier and charged him with capital murder and attempted murder.

“At first, I was like, ‘Damn, should I have waited to give him the Jeep?’ ” Addison wondered out loud. “But things are gonna happen regardless, and that’s what happened.”

Back with his team

Since Addison’s return to Charlotte, he says he has been overwhelmed by the support from everyone in the Panthers organization.

For starters, general manager Marty Hurney and executive director of football staff Mark Carrier both went to Alabama to attend the service for Rodriqcus. Then, there were the texts from coach Ron Rivera and teammates.

“For one, everybody that’s here, they checked on me,” Addison said. “They comforted me real well.”

Even more than that, though, were the many ways the team made Addison feel included — even from a distance.

His teammates on the defensive line laid Addison’s No. 97 jersey on the sideline for Sunday’s game against Tennessee. After the victory, Rivera dedicated game balls both to linebacker Shaq Thompson — who himself recently dealt with the loss of his mother — and Addison.

“I had showed my mom that picture that they had posted (of my jersey on the sideline), and she started crying. She was like, ‘We’re going to get through this,’ ” Addison said. “I told her that when they give me the game ball whenever I get back home, I’m gonna give her the game ball. She was like, ‘Thank you, baby.’ ”

Addison also said he FaceTimed with defensive end/outside linebacker Marquis Haynes, one of his closer friends on the team, the day before the Titans’ game, and Haynes delivered on a personal promise he made.

“I said, ‘Come on little brother, I need you to get on the board.’ And he said, ‘I promise I got you little bro. I ain’t gonna leave this game without a sack,’ ” Addison said. “Even though he missed one and should’ve had two, he did promise me what he was going to do, and he manned up and did it for me.”

Being back with his teammates has helped Addison continue to grieve and deal with his emotions. The routine of the NFL, with its strict rigidity and daily schedules, has been a welcome reprieve.

“I really wanted to get away from Birmingham. You know, it’s a lot of memories, and I’m having a whole lot of mixed emotions while I was there,” Addison said. “I just wanted to get away and be back with these guys, and just actually use football to kind of clear my mind. That’s one of the reasons why I came back.”

The game ahead

Defensive coordinator Eric Washington said he doesn’t anticipate Addison being on any sort of snap count this weekend against Green Bay.

And Rivera, while appreciative that one of his players is back, said he’s also glad that Addison got to grieve with his loved ones. Rivera knows the situation well himself, having lost his brother, Mickey, to pancreatic cancer in 2015.

“It’s very difficult, because the emotions are very fresh, very raw. And I think each guy’s gonna handle it individually,” Rivera said. “I can just speak for my experience — it’s a difficult thing. The hard part is, for me personally feeling like I had to go on, there’s a little bit of guilt as far as I was concerned.”

Just because Addison is back doesn’t mean his brother’s memory isn’t still weighing on him. It doesn’t mean he’s totally good to go.

But Addison says he wants to honor his brother’s memory in a positive way. And the best way he knows how to do that is through his play.

“It’s gonna add fuel to the fire. It’s gonna make me turn up even more,” Addison said. “I’m playing for a higher cause — which I was from the get-go — but now I’m playing with a chip on my shoulder, and the chip is G.

“I’m gonna show him that I’m really proud of him.”

Brendan Marks is a general assignment sports reporter for the Charlotte Observer covering the Carolina Panthers, Charlotte Hornets, NASCAR and more. He graduated from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and has worked for the Observer since August 2017.
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