Tom McHale and Alfred Oglesby and Curtis Whitley overdosed.
Ollie Matson and David Lunceford and Ernie Stautner and Ralph Wenzel suffered from Alzheimer’s and dementia.
Pete Duranko and Wally Hilgenberg had amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, Lou Gehrig’s disease.
The carnage goes on.
These are lives, not statistics. They’re shredded like the brains of dozens of former players diagnosed with chronic traumatic encephalopathy, the neurodegenerative disease linked to repeated head injuries. We consign them to highlight tapes after they leave the field, forgetting the broken bodies and minds that can follow.
The National Institute for Occupational Health and Safety essentially slapped a warning label on the NFL last week. In a letter to retired players, the federal agency summarized the jarring, already-known statistics that the rate of brain and nervous system disorders is three times as high among players as the general population.
The grim studies, lawsuits and CTE diagnoses, complete with disturbing before-and-after slides, have become as routine as cliche-ridden postgame press conferences. Pollard isn’t a doctor or lawyer or long-forgotten former player. He is one of the NFL’s feared hitmen, about to play on his sport’s biggest stage, and he believes, eventually, the game will claim a life on the field.
Is the NFL worth this?
That’s not just a question for Pollard to answer. It’s one for us, too.