Sports Football

Bills legend Talley dealing with serious after-effects of concussions

By Bill Lankhof, Toronto Sun

Texans linebacker Jadeveon Clowney has a lot of pain in his surgically repaired knee. (USA TODAY SPORTS)

Texans linebacker Jadeveon Clowney has a lot of pain in his surgically repaired knee. (USA TODAY SPORTS)

TORONTO - 

Former Buffalo Bills’ linebacker Darryl Talley believes professional football has damaged his mind, fractured his body and stolen his future.

Talley spent 14 seasons in the NFL, but today there remains mostly pain and bitterness. When today’s Bills run out of the tunnel onto the field and look up at the Wall of Fame, Talley’s name reminds them that he was once one of the greatest players in this franchise’s history. But it should also be a warning to them of the demons that, perhaps, await every player who runs from that tunnel.

Talley is dealing with the long-term after-effects of concussions.

This week he told the Buffalo News that he has contemplated suicide, suffers depression, bouts of memory loss and that he can no longer sleep comfortably.

He is a man broken of mind and of body.

“When you go through the shit I’ve gone through, you start to wonder: Is this really worth it? Is it worth being here, worth being tortured anymore?”

Regarded as one of Buffalo’s Super Bowl era heroes, Talley, now 54, admits with chilling candor that, “it would be easy to call it a day.”

Talley retired in 1996. There were too many concussions to count. He saw the flashes of light resulting from hits to head probably close to 100 times. “Too many to count,” he said.

He’s bitter with the NFL for refusing to admit that he’s too ill to work.

He’s upset with the Bills; discovering after he retired that he played an entire season with a broken neck. He estimates he had surgery about 30 times for various injuries.

To complicate life, Talley told the newspaper that there have been financial setbacks after the company he owned failed during the 2008 national financial crash. Former teammates Thurman Thomas and Bruce Smith helped pay tuition so Talley’s daughter could get to college.

He had a heart attack before his 50th birthday.

“His mental issues have accelerated a lot in the last years,” Talley’s wife, Janine told the newspaper. “I don’t know what the future holds for either of us. I don’t know if in a few years dementia will set in. I don’t know if I’ll be able to care for him.”

This isn’t how a man who brought such joy and hope to a city should end up.

But, all too often what is happening to Talley has become a recuring theme for retired players.

“I never thought this would be our life, but this is the reality of it,” Janine said. “I don’t see it getting any better. This’ll kill him one way or the other.”

Chronic traumatic encephalopathy, a degenerative brain disease caused by repeated blows to the head contributed to the suicides of San Diego linebacker Junior Seau, Bears safety Dave Duerson, Philadelphia safety Andre Waters and Steelers guard Terry Long, all of whom played in the same era as Talley.

“I’m not convinced that I’m dead yet,” Talley said. “But the future doesn’t look bright.”

BACK IN THE RUNNING

Michael Bush isn’t suggesting Bears’ coach Marc Trestman almost buried his career. Let’s just say the running back is happy that the Cardinals signed him.

Finally.

After being released by the Bears, Bush worked out the past three months for several teams, including Tennessee and Washington. But it wasn’t until he got a call from Arizona that his career finally took an upturn.

“When people ask me how long I was in Chicago, I say one season because last year, where was I?” Bush said. “It has nothing to do with (Bears running back Matt) Forte because he played great. He’s a hell of a running back.

“I just think that I didn’t get a fair shake.”

His numbers dropped last season when Trestman became head coach. Bush didn’t have a carry in Week 4 against Detroit. He played fewer than seven snaps in eight games in his second season in Chicago and had career lows in carries (63) and yards (197), two years after running for a career-high 977 yards and seven touchdowns on 256 carries.

“Just think when new coaches come in, they got a different opinion and different guys who they want in there,” Bush said.

BACK AT WOUNDED KNEE

That torn menicscus Texans linebacker Jadeveon Clowney was supposed to have had surgically repaired continues to cause him havoc.

Clowney, who has not practised this week, said he’ll test the knee before Sunday’s game, but his chances of playing are slim.

He said he’s experiencing swelling in the knee and and says there’s “a lot of pain. Just been bothering me off and on the whole season.”

QUICK HITS

The Colts claimed veteran linebacker Shaun Phillips off waivers from Tennessee, signed cornerback/special team player Jalil Brown and waived cornerback Loucheiz Purifoy ... Broncos tight end Julius Thomas is day to day and was limited in practice Thursday with a sore ankle ... Adrian Peterson’s appeal hearing will be held next Tuesday ... Browns linebacker Karlos Dansby is “close” to coming back from a knee injury ... The Cowboys know a bit about sad endings. Even with a splendid start, they need a big finish this season — something they haven’t done lately. Since 1997, they’ve compiled a 30-47 regular-season December-January record, tied for 28th in the NFL during that span. Since 2000, they’re 2-12 in Week 17 games, the worst record of any team, plus they’ve lost four straight “win-or-go-home” games dating to 2008 by a combined margin of 127-60.

 

WHITNER NOT WELCOME

Donte Whitner spent five seasons as the toast of Buffalo.

But when he returns with the Browns this weekend Buffalo fans would prefer that he just be toast.

Whitner alienated himself to fans and former teammates this summer when he chided the Bills on Twitter about their potential franchise shift.

“Wonder how you Bills fans gonna feel when the team is moved LOL,” Whitner wrote in July.

Then addded, “Can you say Toronto Bills ?!?!?!?!”

The team, of course, never went anywhere. The hurt feelings haven’t gone either.

Running back Fred Jackson said this week that Whitner will “never get my respect” for what he felt were disparapging comments.

“That’s just him being him,” Jackson said. “Donte is a guy that likes to ruffle feathers. He found any way he could to try and ruffle Buffalo’s feathers. It’s just dumb for him to do and talk about people like that and talk about the city of Buffalo like that. But at the same time, you’ve just got to take it with a grain of salt and say it’s just some dude that’s being an idiot about some stuff.”

Whitner isn’t apologizing.

Neither is he expecting a hero’s welcome back. If he’s hurt anyone’s feelings, well...

“(The Toronto Bills insinuation) wasn’t excessive. It wasn’t a joke. I knew that it would get to them. I knew it would ruffle a feather,” Whitner said.

If the comment is messing with the minds of the Bills, all the better.

“If they’re over there talking about this, maybe we are in their heads. Maybe I’m in their heads. Maybe. We don’t know, but the goal is to get them talking about things other than football and I guess that’s what they’re doing.”

CRACKS IN JETS MANAGEMENT

Rex Ryan isn’t expected to last as the Jets head coach beyond the final game of the season.

There is every indication that he is, even now, no longer calling the shots.

Reports out of New York suggest that offensive coordiantor Marty Mornhinweg and, according to the Daily News a “majority” of others among the coaching staff — including Ryan — wanted Michael Vick to contnue as the starting quarterback.

Upper management, including general manager John Idzik, wanted Geno Smith to return.

So, Monday against the Dolphins, Smith goes under centre.

Anytime something like this happens against the better judgment of the coaches, and the best wishes of the players, there aren’t many happy endings.

The News reported last month that Ryan had to clear his decisiion to originally bench Smith with Idzik and owner Woody Johnson. All of which indicates Ryan has lost control, now remaining only as a figurehead coach. He is finished with the Jets.

Vick seems to have a smimilar sense of inescapable kismet.

“I don’t own this organization,” Vick told reporters. “I just play for it. Why do things happen? I don’t know. I don’t ask too many questions...”

Vick might not be asking, but a lot of Jets fans are, including a group from FireJohnIdzik.com, which recently collected money from unhappy fans to buy a billboard space near MetLife Stadium that demands the GM be fired. Now they’ve also got Johnson in the crosshairs.

The bulletin board has been amended calling for Johnson to fire his GM or sell the team and get lost himself.

‘COACH’S DECISION’

Washington coach Jay Gruden claims to believe that Robert Griffin III is the team’s quarterback of the future.

He just isn’t saying when that future might be.

Meantime, Griffin had little to say when asked about Gruden’s decision to bench him.

“Coach’s decision,” Griffin said. “I’m here to help this team win.”

Actually the latter isn’t likely this weekend, unless Griffin figures out how to become the first quarterback in history to throw a winning touchdown pass while standing on the sideline.

Colt McCoy is back in as the starter after the offence produced only 20 points in the past two games under Griffin’s leadership.

Griffin has looked tentative. He hasn’t shown much progress as a pocket passer and he hasn’t had success scrambling since returning from an ankle injury. When asked about his ineffectiveness, Griffin said: “Hey, I’m just focused on helping us win.”

Gruden said they still want Griffin as part of the team’s future. But last year then-coach Mike Shanahan benched him the final three games saying he didn’t want to endanger Griffin’s health. And, if he ends up finishing this season on the sideline as well, his future in Washington looks anything but rosy.

Washingtons has until May 3 to extend Griffins contract to a fifth year.

“We’ll see how he reacts to this and how he gets himself ready,” Gruden said. “People handle adversity in different ways. Some can’t handle it. Some people can. I think Robert is the type of guy that can. The expectations were a little unfair, but I’m not going to give up on him. He’s not going to give up on himself, but as far as the future is concerned, we don’t know.”

BIG PLANS FOR THIGPEN

Bills’ head coach Doug Marrone has big plans for newly acquired receiver-kick returner Marcus Thigpen.

Marrone said Thursday he hopes to have the former Hamilton Ticats’ return sensation in the lineup this week, after claiming Thigpen on waivers from Tampa.

“That’s what we brought him in for. We’ve got a couple days (of practice) to look at him but that was our thought process,” Marrone said.

Thigpen has been with nine different teams in six pro seasons, including 2010-11 with the Tiger-Cats, before heading off for two seasons with Miami.

And while he might bounce around, if there is one thing Thigpen can do, it is to make a good first impression.

After signing with Hamilton, he returned the team’s first kickoff in 2010 for a touchdown against Winnipeg and was named the CFL special team palyer of the week.

Then, in 2012, in his first NFL game, he returned a punt 72 yards for a touchdown — the first time a Dolphins player had done that since 2007. 


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