"I had a nervous breakdown," Ealy said in an interview with XFL.com's Pat Yasinskas. "I went through a deep depression. I didn't talk to anyone. I couldn't work out and I couldn't play football. I couldn't do anything."
Ealy said the death of his father in September 2018, which followed the death of one of his sisters, "mentally knocked me off my game."
Another of his sisters, Sierra Jones, has mental and physical disabilities, and the 28-year-old had told his father he would take care of Sierra, which compounded his situation.
"I just had so much on my plate," Ealy said. "I didn't handle it well. I just collapsed instead of stepping up."
The Carolina Panthers selected Ealy in the second round of the 2014 draft. He had been a first-team All-SEC defensive end for Missouri in 2013.
The former Tigers star showed promise in his first three seasons, registering 14 sacks and 13 tackles for loss. His NFL career took a turn when the Panthers traded him to the New England Patriots in March 2017.
The Patriots released him prior to the start of the regular season, and he had forgettable spells with the New York Jets and Oakland Raiders.
The Roughnecks selected Ealy in the open phase of the XFL draft in October. He had three tackles and 0.5 sacks in Houston's 37-17 victory over the Los Angeles Wildcats in the opening week.