Hall of Famer Warren Sapp announced Tuesday that when he dies he will donate his brain to the Concussion Legacy Foundation because “I wanted this game to be better when I left than when I got into it.”
Sapp, 44, made the announcement in a video posted on The Players’ Tribune. He says an email he received from former running back Fred Willis was the impetus for his decision.
Sapp said the email “had quotes from NFL owners — I mean down the line you could see it: There’s no correlation between football, CTE, suicides, and all this foolish stuff. … I mean where are you getting this information from and then spewing it out as if it’s fact?”
Sapp, a seven-time Pro Bowl selection who retired in 2008 after 13 seasons (nine with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and four with the Oakland Raiders), said football has affected his memory.
“We’re playing in a macho league and we’re talking about Hall of Famers now who are immortalized forever, made busts and everything. Legends of the game,” he said. “There’s no way any of us wanna really admit that we can’t remember how to get home or a grocery list that the wife has given us or how to go pick up our kids to the school, or whatever it may be.
“You try to [say], ‘All right, I’m gonna get a little more sleep — maybe it’s something I did last night, maybe something I drank,’ or whatever it is. You try to find a reason that it’s not that it’s my brain, that I’m not deteriorating right before my own eyes.
“It’s the most frightening feeling, but it’s also a very weakening feeling because you feel like a child. I need help. I need somebody to help me find something that I could’ve found with my eyes closed, in the dead of night, half asleep.”
The former defensive lineman, who was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 2013, says he now has to use reminders on his phone to help him remember simple tasks.
“I used to call myself an elephant in the room. Never forget anything. Man, I wake up now and be like, ‘OK, what are we doing?’ Let me get the phone. I mean with the reminders in the phones, it really helped me get through my day with appointments and different things that I have to do because it’s just, I can’t remember anymore like I used to.
“And it’s from the banging we did as football players. We used to tackle them by the head, used to grab facemasks. We used to allow Deacon Jones to do the head slap. All of that was something that we had to take away from the game. We used to hit quarterbacks below the knees. Now it’s a strike zone. Let’s keep making the game better,” he said.
Sapp said those improvements should start at the youth level by eliminating tackling until players get to high school.