Pittsburgh Steelers center “Iron Mike” Webster was considered by many as the greatest of all time, winning four Super Bowls and playing in nine Pro Bowls in his career. But after he retired, he lapsed into depression, amnesia and dementia before passing away in 2002 at the age of 50.
When a brilliant pathologist (who knew nothing about football) named Dr. Bennet Omalu did Webster’s autopsy, he found a brain unlike what he expected with signs of chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE).
He told the NFL, but the NFL didn’t want to hear it. But players did, as did their families. A little over a decade later, the league would agree to pay almost $1 billion to retired players who were suffering like Webster did.
Since Webster’s death and Omalu’s discovery, the signs, effects and consequences of CTE have been richly documented, while the list of deceased former players found to have been afflicted with CTE has swelled.
While Webster is unable to tell his story, three legendary NFL quarterbacks are speaking out as they search for a safe and effective treatment.
During his 20 seasons with the Green Bay Packers, Brett Favre started a record 321 consecutive games. But his career ended with a final play that knocked him out cold.
Mark Rippen is the first Canadian quarterback to start in the NFL and to be Super Bowl MVP. But in his post-football years, Rippen and his family have suffered with a host of mental health issues that he blames on football and the NFL.
And Kurt Warner’s Cinderella story began with him shunned and unloved in the 1994 draft, but he rose to be the first undrafted player to be named Super Bowl and NFL MVP. However, he says he took his knocks along the way.
Here’s what these three NFL legends had to say about the continuing controversy around CTE in the NFL.