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New issue of SI features 1986 Bengals


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From OK's MMQB column today:

Week 13's compelling people

Mike Martin (and the 1986 Cincinnati Bengals).

Chances are -- unless you root for the Bengals -- you don't remember Martin, a seven-year return man and receiver for Cincinnati a quarter-century ago. But he's the centerpiece of a six-month project Sports Illustrated did that will appear in this week's "Sportsman of the Year'' issue, which comes out tomorrow.

Last spring, I got this idea that everything we know and think about the physical and mental health of former NFL players is anecdotal. Dave Duerson, depressed, kills himself, so we think a vast number of hard-hitting defensive players are similarly afflicted. Harry Carson has lingering head trauma, so we think thousands of old linebackers must feel the same way. And many do, certainly. But what about the rank-and-file who don't make the headlines, who just melt away into life after football? I thought, Let's take a team from 25 years ago, and find out what happened to every player on it. So we did.

We took an average team from the 1986 season, the 10-6 Bengals, and examined their mental and physical lives a quarter-century later. I worked with a dogged team of reporters -- staffer Matt Gagne (never takes no for an answer) and summer interns Joan Niesen from Missouri (so determined she took the work with her when she left SI and kept calling players) and Lizzy Pierce from Princeton (an all-Ivy outfielder who interviews as well as she hits) -- to contact the players from that team. Thirty-nine of the 46 living Bengals answered our eight-question survey. They range in age from 62 (quarterback Ken Anderson) to 46 (linebacker Joe Kelly, who turns 47 this week). Two of the seven didn't cooperate because of possible litigation over lingering injuries against the NFL.

We believe it's the first time a roster of players was surveyed to determine the mental and physical toll (and benefits) of the sport decades after the players played.

"I'm so glad you're doing this,'' said Cris Collinsworth, in his sixth of eight NFL seasons in 1986. "The NFL can't forget these guys. I'd like to see a study done of all former players and how they're doing long after they leave the game.''

We used Martin because he seemed an average player. He played seven years, 1986 was the midpoint of his career, and his age, 51, was in the middle of the 48-man team. And his injuries seem about average too. "I take Aleve every day for joint and muscle stiffness,'' Martin told us. "It's my best friend.''

Gagne writes about two players, safety Bobby Kemp and linebacker Emanuel King, whose lives were forever altered by football; Kemp's story I feel will shock even his former teammates, many of whom don't know what happened to him after he left football. I write about Boomer Esiason, who seems to have played with an angel on his shoulder pads. Now 50, Esiason said: "Nothing hurts.''

The findings of our study will surprise you a bit, and I hope you take some time this week to digest our nine-page report.

Looks like I'm going to have to spring for a copy of SI.

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  • 5 months later...

I'm going to join the NFL lawsuits to seek compensation for the brain damage and post-traumatic stress disorder I've suffered from being a Bengals fan all these years.

Can you claim something that's self induced ?? :frustrated:

If so, we all should be on board !!!

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I'm going to join the NFL lawsuits to seek compensation for the brain damage and post-traumatic stress disorder I've suffered from being a Bengals fan all these years.

Been in the club since '68. I expect a sizable check.

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