Indianapolis Colts owner Jim Irsay was found unresponsive at his Carmel home last month, with police suspecting an overdose may have been the cause, according to a police report obtained by media outlets this week. The eccentric billionaire has battled substance abuse issues in the past, raising questions about his health and the future leadership of one of the NFL’s most stable franchises.
Background on Jim Irsay and Past Substance Abuse Issues
Jim Irsay, 64, has owned the Indianapolis Colts since 1997 when he inherited the team after the death of his father, Robert Irsay. The younger Irsay quickly established himself as one of the most involved owners in the NFL. He was also known for his outgoing personality and struggles with substance abuse.
In 2002, Irsay entered rehab for prescription drug addiction. A decade later in 2014, he was arrested on suspicion of intoxicated driving and held on 4 felony counts of possession of controlled substances. Irsay pleaded guilty to misdemeanor charges and was suspended 6 games by the NFL.
Since that time, Irsay has remained sober and continued to lead the Colts franchise. The team won 62 percent of their games during his ownership tenure and captured Super Bowl XLI over the Chicago Bears following the 2006 season.
Emergency Response to Irsay’s Home
According to the police report, emergency personnel were dispatched to Irsay’s home on December 8 after receiving a call about an unresponsive male. Police found Irsay, whom they identified as the owner of the Colts in the report, on the floor of his bathroom at around 10:30 pm.
Irsay was said to be “unresponsive,” “struggling to breathe,” and had turned blue. First responders administered oxygen and Narcan, a medication used to reverse opioid overdoses. Within minutes Irsay was breathing normally again and was able to communicate with medical personnel.
He was transported to a nearby hospital for further evaluation. The police report lists the incident as a “medical assist” and “suspected overdose.”
Initial Statements Downplay Severity
In the wake of the police report, Irsay and the Colts downplayed the severity of the incident. The team released a statement saying the owner has been undergoing treatment for a respiratory illness and is expected to fully recover.
Irsay also tweeted “This past month, I experienced some difficult health issues, but my condition was not life threatening and I’m recovering nicely at home now. I appreciate the thoughts and well-wishers, but I want to keep this private.”
Other outlets such as TMZ, however, stood by their reporting that emergency responders did indeed suspect an overdose when they arrived at Irsay’s home.
The TMZ report also claims Irsay was unresponsive for almost 5 minutes and “began turning blue” before Narcan revived him. Their sources reaffirm that Irsay was laying on the bathroom floor struggling to breathe when help arrived.
|Date of Incident
|Irsay’s Carmel, IN home
|Irsay’s Carmel, IN home
|Unresponsive on floor struggling to breathe
|Unresponsive on floor struggling to breathe and “turning blue”
|Oxygen and Narcan
Questions About Future Leadership
As the long-time owner of an NFL franchise worth nearly $3 billion, Irsay’s health situation and potential relapse raises questions about future leadership of the team. He runs the club’s daily operations and has played an integral role in shaping the franchise’s identity.
Irsay’s daughters – Carlie Irsay-Gordon, Casey Irsay-Feld, and Kalen Irsay – are all heavily involved with the team. But as one report speculates, the daughters would likely install a head decision-maker like President Pete Ward if something happened with their father.
Still, the incident serves as a reminder of the fragility of life and unclear line of succession among NFL owners. Dallas Cowboys long-time leader Jerry Jones is dealing with similar questions as he approaches 80 years old. It’s a situation the league office will likely have to grapple with in more detail in the coming years.
For now though, the focus returns to Irsay’s recovery. Colts VP Pete Ward told reporters this week that he communicated with Irsay recently and that the owner is “healing” following the health scare last month.
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