Punter stunned by 911 calls before Bironas' crash

Associated Press

September 25, 2014

Former Tennessee Titans linebacker Tim Shaw hugs a friend as he arrives for visitation for former Titans kicker Rob Bironas on Wednesday, Sept. 24, 2014, in Nashville, Tenn. Bironas died Saturday night after a car accident near his Nashville home, according to police. Shaw announced earlier this year he has ALS.

NASHVILLE, Tenn. A former teammate is having a difficult time comprehending everything being said about what happened the night of ex-Titans kicker Rob Bironas' fatal car accident.

Punter Brett Kern said Wednesday that descriptions of Bironas chasing people and trying to run them off the road before losing control of his SUV last Saturday are stunning because he never saw anything that would indicate the man he called a big brother could behave that way.

"This is just kind of hard to take because it's not him at all, so it's tough to hear everything coming out," Kern said.

A missing person report filed by his new bride Rachel Bradshaw, daughter of Pro Football Hall of Fame quarterback Terry Bradshaw, and disturbing 911 calls have raised questions about the circumstances around Bironas' one-vehicle accident.

Autopsy and toxicology tests were performed, but results may not be known for up to 90 days. Bironas' funeral is scheduled for Thursday; Kern, quarterback Jake Locker were among former teammates attending a visitation Wednesday afternoon.

Kern didn't see any signs that his former teammate was having any issues.

Former Tennessee Titans wide receiver Marc Mariani embraces a friend as he arrives for the visitation for former Titans kicker Rob Bironas on Wednesday, Sept. 24, 2014, in Nashville, Tenn. Bironas died Saturday night, Sept. 20, after a car accident near his Nashville home, according to police

He said Bironas, cut in March, had installed a kicking net in his backyard complete with artificial turf expecting to sign with another NFL team. Bironas believed a workout last week in Detroit went well, even texting Kern saying he wished he had been his holder.

Tresa Halbrooks, who worked with Bironas for years while helping Titans players with charity appearances, also has been surprised by the reports of the crash.

She described Bironas as a very social, happy and funny man who loved Nashville and always ready for any appearance. His reputation was that of an upstanding citizen with no off-field issues.

"He would walk into a room with a big smile on his face and hug people's necks, and everyone in this city feels like they knew him," said Halbrooks, who now owns her own events and management firm.

Tennessee Titans punter Brett Kern talks about former Titans kicker Rob Bironas as Kern arrives at a funeral home for the visitation for Bironas on Wednesday, Sept. 24, 2014, in Nashville, Tenn. Bironas died Saturday nigh after a car accident near his Nashville home, according to police.

But on the night of his death, his behavior described in a series of 911 calls was nothing like that.

Connor Fraley, a Belmont University student, called police at 10:45 p.m. on Saturday while riding in a pickup truck being chased by Bironas at speeds over 100 mph. Fraley told a dispatcher that Bironas cursed them after alerting him to a smell from his SUV's exhaust at a stop light, then tried to hit their truck during a chase down a major Nashville road. Fraley didn't recognize the former Titans kicker as the SUV driver until a roommate texted him Bironas' photo the day after the crash.

At 11:03 p.m., a woman called 911 reporting the SUV had crashed and gave the phone to another woman who said Bironas had tried to run her and her husband off the road minutes earlier. The woman told the dispatcher that she and her husband had pulled over and let the man drive past. She also said police needed to know something was wrong with him before the crash.

        

Tennessee Titans flags form a makeshift memorial Wednesday, Sept. 24, 2014, in Nashville, Tenn., where former Titans kicker Rob Bironas died Saturday. Bironas died after a car accident near his Nashville home, according to police. The visitation for Bironas is scheduled for Wednesday and his funeral is scheduled for Thursday.

Bironas' wife reported him missing in a 911 call at 11:40 p.m. The couple had watched a movie at home along with a friend when Bironas told his wife good night and left the room. Rachel Bironas told police she thought he went to bed, then later couldn't find him in the house. She called his phone and then relatives before police. In the report, she said they had not argued and Bironas did not have "a history of wanting to harm himself." While the officer was taking the report, they learned Bironas had crashed less than a mile from their home.

While Kern believes what really happened last Saturday will eventually come out, he is focusing on the last time he spoke with Bironas.

"I told him I was proud of him," Kern said, "and that's the last thing I told him."