Deacon JonesDuring his playing days, Deacon Jones was a bruising defender who literally invented the term “sack.” Did his hard-nosed style cost him later in life? Since Jones’ cause of death hasn’t been determined yet, it’s up in the air, but fellow Hall of Famer Lem Barney thinks he knows the answer.

While initial reports have said Jones’ death Monday was of natural causes,¬†Barney said other changes in his friend made him suspicious. Barney says all those blows to the helmet cost Jones his life.

“It’s a shame that he’s gone,” the former Detroit Lion great told USA Today. “I’m sure it’s due to the head injuries.

“I know he didn’t complain about it, but you could see that he was slower in speech when you saw him or had phone conversations. He was still the deacon, but you could see some things being lost.”

Barney is one of 4,000 former NFL players who are part of a lawsuit against the NFL alleging the league didn’t tell them of the long-term dangers of the sport. Barney has gone so far as to say he wouldn’t have played professional football in the first place if he had known the risks.

“If I could do it all over again, I would play baseball, tennis or golf,” Barney said.

Photo via Twitter/@LobShots