After getting out of pro football, Alex Karras enjoyed a pretty good run as an actor.
He played the character Mongo in Mel Brook’s hilarious spoof of Westerns, “Blazing Saddles.”
And Karras played a dad in a 1980s sitcom, “Webster.”
In a column Saturday, Associated Press writer Tim Dahlberg wrote that Karras at age 76 is suffering from dementia, and that he is one of 1,200 former National Football League players suing the league, alleging that it hid or ignored the dangers of repeated brain injuries from players.
And now those retired athletes are paying the price, in terms of their lapsing mental health, and want compensation.
According to Karras’s wife, the former Detroit Lions tackle can no longer drive. He used to enjoy cooking, but he can’t get in front of a stove now because he can’t remember his recipes, according to Dahlberg.
The gist of Dahlberg’s column is that fans at one time were idolizing and cheering on players such as Karras, Chicago Bear Jim McMahon, Dallas Cowboy Tony Dorsett and Minnesota Viking Brent Boyd.
But these retired players are on trouble now, with no medical insurance and no compensation for their worsening health, according to Dahlberg.
His column does note that the league and players’ union have set up “the 88 plan,” which was named after Hall of Famer John Mackey. His number was 88. He suffered from dementia and died at age 69, but he and his wife helped establish the special fund to help those with dementia, Dahlberg wrote.
He then made a plea for the retired, mentally deteriorating players.
“Forgive most of those left behind, though, if they feel like they’ve been cast off and forgotten,” Dahlberg wrote. “The league didn’t take care of them then, and it’s not taking care of them now. Some made a lot of money, sure. Many others didn’t, and they’re hurting in a lot of ways from playing a sport where hurt is a given.”