If you want to hear scary stories about former players suffering concussions, the Pro Football Hall of Fame induction weekend might be a pretty good place to start.
Via ESPN’s Mike Rodak, we hear the story from Buffalo Bills quarterback and Hall of Famer Jim Kelly, who said he played the entire fourth quarter of Super Bowl XXVI with a concussion. The Bills lost to the Washington Redskins, 37-24, in the game on Jan. 26, 1992 at the Metrodome in Minneapolis that day.
He finished the game 28-of-58 passing for 275 yards, with two touchdowns (both of which came in the fourth quarter) and four interceptions in the loss. The old cliché about it being a game to forget rings pretty hollow when you hear Kelly’s scary words now about that day 24 years ago.
Kelly said he still has no recollection at all of that entire quarter and didn’t know where he was after the game ended. Even scarier: Kelly said he even went back to the wrong hotel after the game.
After throwing a pick early in the fourth that led to a 37-10 Redskins lead with just under 12 minutes left, Kelly led touchdown drives of 79 and 50 yards to make the final score more respectable. But he also had been knocked out of the game at the start of that first TD drive in the quarter, replaced by backup Frank Reich for one play before coming back in to lead the two scores. Reich replaced Kelly for good on the Bills’ final drive in the waning seconds once the game was academic.
Kelly played five more years in the NFL and took a beating in his final year of 1996, retiring after that season but briefly considering a comeback with the Baltimore Ravens in 1997 before settling into an announcing role. Kelly famously has suffered after his career ended, too, being diagnosed with cancer in 2013 — with multiple rounds of chemotherapy — and MRSA in 2014 before being declared cancer-free thereafter.
Although Kelly has talked about the effects he suffered in that Super Bowl before, begging Roger Goodell and the NFL to do more to help player safety, these details are absolutely frightening. Former teammate and fellow Hall of Famer Thurman Thomas said back in April that he had suffered from memory loss and mood swings.
The Hall of Fame weekend is a time for storytelling about the glory of football yore. But some of the stories that come out are downright scary knowing what we know today about the severe dangers of head trauma and repeated concussions.
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