A cause of death of legendary Seahawk defensive tackle Cortez Kennedy may not be known for two-three months.
While friends and family members struggled a day later to come to grips with the tragedy of the sudden passing of legendary Seattle Seahawk Cortez Kennedy on Tuesday, a cause of death remained unclear.
A spokesman for the District Nine Medical Examiner’s Office in Orange County, Fla., said an official cause of death likely won’t be determined until results of toxicology tests come back, which could take 10-12 weeks.
Kennedy’s stepfather Joe Harris said in a phone interview with the Seattle Times Wednesday morning that the family remains uncertain what occurred.
“We really don’t know what happened,’’ Harris said. “No conclusions yet at this time.’’
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Harris said Kennedy, who was 48, had been complaining of headaches in recent days but that “I don’t know if that would have been the cause of death.’’ Kennedy also had diabetes but it’s unclear if that played any role.
Kennedy had been feeling enough out of sorts, however, that he canceled a scheduled appearance in Seattle Thursday at a fundraiser for Special Olympics USA at the Seattle Great Wheel at Pier 57.
“I know that he was supposed to do something at a Special Olympics event but he canceled it,’’ said former teammate Eugene Robinson, which other friends also confirmed.
Kennedy had also been said to have dealt with increasing back issues in recent years, one reason he hadn’t attended as many Seahawks games the past few seasons due in part to discomfort while flying.
Harris, though, said none of the ailments were thought to be significant.
“Just normal health issues that a young man would have, I guess,’’ he said.
Kennedy missed only nine games in 11 seasons with the Seahawks, all due to ankle issues. He suffered a broken left ankle that caused him to miss eight games in 1997 and then missed the season opener the following season due to another ankle injury.
Otherwise, along with being known as one of the best defensive tackles in NFL history what also stood out was durability. Kennedy at one point started 100 straight games, which was a Seahawks record at the time he retired following the 2000 season (it has since been surpassed by Chris Gray with 121 and Earl Thomas with 106).
At the time of his death Kennedy — one of four Seahawks to get elected into the Pro Football Hall of Fame having played his entire career in Seattle — was living in a gated community on a golf course in Orlando, having moved there years ago, according to friends.
The Orlando Police Department said in a statement Tuesday that there was nothing suspicious about Kennedy’s death and that he was “unattended” at the time. An investigation is ongoing but a spokesperson said Wednesday there was no additional information and at this point there may be nothing more until the autopsy report.
Kennedy was said to have been found alone in his house unresponsive on Tuesday morning, apparently by a neighbor who had also checked on him on Monday given that he had said in recent days he hadn’t been feeling well. TMZ first reported that a call from Kennedy’s house to 911 was made at 10:20 a.m. Tuesday reporting an “unconscious patient” with “no vitals.”
Friends have said Kennedy was known for paying particular attention to anything related to his health, and became even more diligent following the death of good friend Chester McGlockton in 2011.
McGlockton, who played defensive tackle in the NFL from 1992-2003, died from the consequences of an enlarged heart at the age of 42 in 2011, which compelled Kennedy, listed at 6-3 and 305 pounds during his playing days, to become even more vigilant about keeping his weight in check.
“Without a question,” said Dennis Erickson, who coached Kennedy at the University of Miami as well as with the Seahawks from 1995-98. “Shoot, he was down to 250, 260, something like that. “He really lost a lot of weight. Did that on purpose from the time he retired. He knew he had to. You stay and do the same things after you’re done playing, at that weight, it’s not very good for your health. I don’t think that was a problem with him health-wise, the weight thing, he knew what he had to do. He had diabetes. He had some different things he had to deal with.”
After officially retiring in 2002 Kennedy stayed around the game in several different roles, including serving as an adviser to the New Orleans Saints (he was close with general manager Mickey Loomis, who was an executive with the Seahawks during Kennedy’s playing days) as well as serving as something of an unofficial ambassador with the Seahawks, often accompanying the team on road trips and attending training camp.
But whatever work Kennedy did was only because he had to as he also was known for the careful manner in which he handled his money (his last contract with the Seahawks was a three-year, $17 million deal in 1998).
“This is just devastating because he had so much more life to live and so much more to give,’’ said Tom Flores, who was the president and general manager of the Seahawks when Kennedy was drafted in 1990 and then coached the team from 1992-94. “He was very smart. He didn’t just throw his money away and spend it all on mink coats and cars. He was pretty frugal with his money, and he ended up being in very good shape when he retired. I was proud of him for that. And I told him so when I saw him. I’d see him occasionally and went when he was inducted (into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 2012) and saw him years afterward when I went for other inductions he would always be there and say hello and give me a big bear hug and pick me up the air.”
Erickson recalled that Kennedy liked to visit whenever he was in the area.
“He’d either call or sometimes come over to Idaho and see some guys he went fishing with,” Erickson said. “Probably the funniest thing is he’d call quite often and call out of the blue. He might even show up in Idaho out of the blue. He’d just say, ‘I’m in town.’ When I didn’t answer or when I was gone, he’d leave a voicemail and say, ‘This is Cortez. Am I still the greatest player you ever coached?’”
Kennedy is survived by Harris, his mother Ruby and daughter Courtney, 22, a student at the University of Arkansas.
“He spent a lot of time with his daughter,” Erickson said. “His daughter was everything to him. He was around. He’d go around and see different guys and was always jovial. He didn’t just sit at home, believe me. He was always active.”
A public memorial service for Kennedy will be held in his hometown of Osceola, Ark., on June 1 at 11 a.m. at the Pleasant Grove Baptist Church with a public viewing beginning at 10 a.m.
In lieu of flowers, the family is asking for donations to Kennedy’s High School:
Rivercrest High School Athletic Club
Attn: Mike Smith
1700 State Highway 14
Wilson, AR 72395