Brennan: Memories of hits to head worry ex-NFL players

9:38 PM, Nov 13, 2013   |    comments
Doug Williams participates in the Bing World Champion Quarterback Panel moderated by ESPN's Mike Tirico at the ESPN NEXT Experience on February 5, 2011 (Michael Kovac/Getty Images)
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(USA TODAY) -- Former Super Bowl MVP Doug Williams doesn't think he has CTE, the degenerative brain condition linked to concussions. But when he can't recall the name of an opponent while reminiscing with a friend, or leaves home without his keys, or even forgot his suitcase once on the way to the airport, he wonders.

"I've got two little girls, 5 and 7 years old, and when I look at what is happening with Tony Dorsett, that's my biggest concern," Williams said in a phone interview Wednesday. "If I'm still around, and they get to be older, what will I be?"

It's a question that almost every football player of a certain age is asking himself these days, especially after hearing the news last week that Dorsett, 59, a stalwart of their era, was diagnosed with chronic traumatic encephalopathy and is suffering from memory loss and depression.

"We all have some forgetfulness and we don't know what it's from," Hall of Fame cornerback Darrell Green, a businessman and TV analyst, said over the phone. "We used to never really think of it, but it's starting to be more of a conversation now at our reunions. It's starting to be something every one of us is talking about.

"That's the kind of conversation guys are having now, talking about people's well-being, things we never used to talk about."

They were teammates during the Super Bowl glory days in Washington: Green, Williams, Dexter Manley, Mark May and Fred Dean. Now in their 50s, they see each other at reunions and pitch in on one another's charities. Three of them were part of the NFL concussion lawsuit that settled for $765 million: Manley, May and Dean. Two of them, Manley and Dean, are suffering in ways the others thankfully are not.

"I forget that I have a meeting at work," said Dean, an offensive lineman now working at Howard University, who estimates he suffered at least five concussions during his five-year career. "A lot of times I forget my wallet. I sometimes forget who I'm talking to on the phone. You told me 10 minutes ago but I already forgot your name. It's scary."

May, an offensive lineman who is an ESPN college football analyst, was in touch with Dean recently for a charity event.

"He told me one day, 'I didn't talk to you,'" May said. "And I said, 'Fred, I sent you an e-mail and you answered the e-mail.' And he said, 'Oh, yeah, yeah.'"

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