Pro Football Hall of Famer and former Dallas Cowboys offensive lineman Rayfield Wright says the blows to his head over a 13-year career has him “at war within himself.”
Wright, 68, is one of more than 4,000 athletes suing the NFL over concussion-related brain injuries.
The NFL proposed a $765 million settlement, but a federal judge preliminarily rejected it in January, citing concerns that it may not be enough compensation to pay all claimants.
Also in January, Wright told The New York Times that he has dementia.
Speaking while attending the Retired NFL Players Congress Summit in Arlington over the weekend, Wright said he felt pressured to play even when he was hurt.
“There’s no question there was pressure. Going back out on the field, or something of that nature, after you got injured was part of the game,” Wright said. “But most of the players that have played the game for any length of time and even players that played for a short time have issues.”
Wright, whose career spanned from 1967 to 1979, played tight end, tackle and defensive end during his first three seasons before settling in at right tackle.
“For whatever reasons, so many things have happened that we were not aware of when we played the game. All the things that have gone on behind the scenes are just coming out.
“I think it’s a good thing that they are coming out so that students and young kids, even in pee wee football, can really look at the game itself and show them the detrimental things about playing the game.
“It’s one of the greatest games, but when you’re out there playing and competing, you don’t even think about that, you just want to play the game.”
Wright says the league can do more for its former players. He denied The New York Times report that his NFL pension was $82 per month.
“That was incorrect. Those were statements made by one of my representatives and it’s not correct,” Wright said. “But the pensions themselves are too low. Players should be taken care of. We’re the ones that built the game.”
Wright said the many rule changes have altered the look of the game.
“It’s changed a lot for a lot of different reasons. I think that’s good for the game that it’s changed, but for me when I watch the game, it doesn’t seem like real football,” Wright said. “There’s so many rule changes, especially on the offensive line.
“Today’s linemen can reach out and grab a guy and they can grab each other and it just becomes a wrestling match. That’s why some guys weigh as much as they do now.
“As far as linemen are concerned, the game is not as fast for linemen because a lineman’s game is 10 yards. So it’s about how quickly you can get from point A to point B. You can get a guy 350 pounds to run a 4.5 40-yard dash, but that doesn’t mean anything to me. I want to know how quickly he can get from point A to point B.”