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“I don’t want to get any higher than 340,” said Bengals 11-year veteran guard Bobbie Williams. “As you get older, you don’t want to get the weight on you. You want to be able to move and keep up. You don’t want to feel burdened down by your weight.”

Yet at 340 pounds, Williams hardly stands out in today’s NFL. It’s a sign of how much things have changed.

Stats LLC provided the AP with a statistical snapshot of four NFL rosters _ the Saints, Colts, Bears and Steelers _ at the start of each decade, beginning in 1970.

The Bears _ the brawny, bruising, so-called “Monsters of the Midway” back in the day _ didn’t register their first 300-pounder until 1990, when The Fridge (at 335) and William Fontenot (300) were on the team. (They both were on the team earlier, as well, but the study only looked at years ending in “0.” The weights, in most cases, were what the players weighed in the last year of their career.)

Likewise, the Steelers won all four of their 1970s Super Bowls without a single 300-pounder on the roster. By 1990, they had four.

The Colts and Saints _ last year’s Super Bowl teams _ combined for 10 players on this year’s preseason roster at 330 pounds or heavier.

According to heights and weights listed on rosters, 97 percent of 2,168 NFL players had body-mass indexes (a formula that considers weight and height) of 25 or greater, which is considered the threshold for the “overweight” category. The BMI is often considered an unfair gauge for NFL players because they lift weights extensively and have naturally large frames. Still, it’s notable that 56 percent have BMIs of more than 30, which is the threshold for obesity, and 26 percent are at 35 or greater.

It’s a recipe for problems, whether in the midst of a career or after, in a sport that beats up players like no other.

“Your joints are going to be aching,” said Steelers offensive lineman Max Starks, who by almost every account, carries his 345 pounds quite well. “Your joints aren’t going to be able to take all that pressure because they’ve been taking all that abuse from playing the sport, because it is barbaric at times, it’s a grueling sport and you’re going to have injuries.”

There’s no sign of things lightening in the college ranks. Macedonio cited another study that showed a sampling of collegiate offensive lineman averaged 27.4 percent body fat _ the healthy range is 8 to 19 percent _ and that 69 of 70 players already had at least one condition _ high blood pressure, waist circumference of 40 inches or greater _ that predicted they would be susceptible to heart disease later in life.

“There’s no question there are some health risks,” said Dan Wathen, longtime athletic trainer at Youngstown State who remembers the day when a 250-pound player was considered huge. “It’s manageable when they’re playing. It’s greater when their playing days are over. If they continue with the same caloric consumption, the health risk is going to go up significantly at that point.”

Most of the big players see that day coming. They hear news about Perry _ who has been battling a nerve disorder, his weight bouncing between the mid-300s to under 200 at one point, then back up again. And about Newton, who recently had a gastric sleeve put on to shrink the size of his stomach and now bops around at a svelte 250 pounds.

“I keep making a joke around here, I say, `I’m getting a surgery,’” said Dolphins tackle Vernon Carey, whose weight goes from 335 in season to 360 out of season, talking about his retirement plans.

A notorious victim of fines for being overweight when he played for Jimmy Johnson and the Cowboys in the 1990s, Newton says the biggest he ever got was 411 pounds. He was at an unhealthy 393 pounds as recently as April. Since the surgery, his waist size has gone from 56 inches to 40. Despite the progress, he is still faced with issues most 48-year-old men don’t face until later in life.

“I didn’t want to die because of fat-related or because I got diabetes or I got high blood pressure,” Newton said. “I don’t want a heart attack because I’m 400-something pounds. If I die, let it be something else, not something I can do something about.”

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