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January 28, 2003

Brotherly love
By Rob Dibble

SAN DIEGO -- One thing that always strikes me during Super Bowl week is how strong the NFL brotherhood is. As Karl Mecklenberg told me, a lot of blood is shed in an NFL game. You have a connection to the other guys that is intense and a respect that is long-lasting. Former NFL players have a true fraternity.

This week I saw Franco Harris, Marcus Allen, Cris Carter and Mecklenberg. They have all paid a physical price for playing their sport. Jim Plunkett told me that he has no rotator cuff left and hasn't run in five years. Part of the respect that these guys have for each other is they know what it takes to play. They respect someone who pays the price.

I really marvel at their will and determination to play their game. Baseball is tough, don't get me wrong. But football players have many more physical lifetime reminders of their careers than baseball players do. I can't believe that Cris Carter has played for 16 years.

The current guys that I met are not focused on injuries. The Patriots' Lawyer Milloy wouldn't even discuss his aches and pains. He's still playing so he has to block it out. Same with Kyle Turley, Curtis Martin and Kurt Warner. They have very little to say about their bodies. "I'm fine" usually covers it. It has to be that way or they'd never take the field.

Anyway, there will be plenty of time to contemplate their physical condition when they retire.

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