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Alex Karras, RIP

Paulus Textor Wrote: Oct 13, 2012 10:17 AM
Ironically, the safety equipment itself may be at least partly to blame for these injuries. Back when players wore leather helmets, they naturally protected their heads more carefully. No one in his right mind would deliberately initiate a head-to-head contact; he would end up as badly injured as the fellow he hit. With modern hard helmets, players often use their heads and helmets as weapons, because they are under the illusion their brains won't get scrambled. Today, two 300-pound linemen will routinely get down in a 3-point stance, and smash helmets together as hard as they can at the snap of the ball. That's a lot of force.

Alex Karras, the former Detroit Lions All-Pro defensive tackle and later a successful actor, died on October 10. I have vivid memories of him before he ever gained immortality as “Mongo” in “Blazing Saddles” or as the stepdad of “Webster.”

Karras was a star on the great Detroit Lions defenses of the early 1960s—a unit that included four Hall-of-Famers: middle linebacker Joe Schmidt and defensive backs Night Train Lane, Dick LeBeau, and Yale Lary, all three of whom were in the top five for career interceptions at the time they retired. This defense led the way to one of the greatest...