Gale Sayers: 'Today's players think they did it by themselves'

There has been a great outpouring of support for the late John Mackey, the Hall of Fame tight end who lived the final years of his life in a facility that provided assistance to him.

Mackey was a Hall of Fame player for the Baltimore Colts and a pioneer with the union and one of his contemporaries – Hall of Fame running back Gale Sayers – believes more should have been done by the NFL to assist Mackey.

Sayers, in an interview with Fred Mitchell of the Chicago Tribune, believes Mackey’s passing highlights the need for the NFL to do more for retired players in terms of benefits in a new collective bargaining agreement.

It’s not for me; I’m OK,” Sayers told Mitchell. “But it’s for the rest of them.

“You know, John Mackey died at 60-something (69. The NFL) could have helped him more, I felt. But they didn’t, and the players (NFLPA) could have helped more, and it didn’t happen.”

It’s been well documented how Mackey’s wife had to work as a flight attendant to help pay for her husband’s extensive medical needs as he suffered from dementia. Per the report, he earned less than $500,000 in a 10-year career.

“There is no question that the game wouldn’t be a game if it wouldn’t have been for those people who played in the 1930s, ‘40s and ‘50s and ‘60s,” Sayers said. “The players today are on our shoulders. They think they made the game the way it is today. And they didn’t.

“The (pioneers of the game) played for $5,000 a year, or $10,000 or $15,000. They played for that much money so that these players got $10 million or $20 million a year. Today’s players think they did it by themselves. It’s unbelievable how they could think and feel that way.”

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Brad Biggs covers the Bears for the Chicago Tribune

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