Washington Redskins: Is Sam Huff's Health Slipping?
In case you haven't heard, Sam is scaling back his work schedule, as the beloved game-day co-host for Washington Redskins' radio broadcasts. His new schedule includes all eight home games, but just two away (at Dallas and at the New York Giants).
According to a Red Zebra press release, "the rigors of travel" played a part in the decision to eliminate six road games from Huff's to-do list. But that statement seems vague to those who wonder if Sam's health is an issue.
Since 1975, Huff has been a staple on Redskins radio. The upcoming season marks the franchise's 80th anniversary and the 31st year he will be joined in the booth by fellow Hall of Famer and former teammate Sonny Jurgensen. The release also confirmed the return of Larry Michael as the team's play-by-play voice for a ninth season.
But speculation and debate about Huff's mental state has run rampant for years.
Some fans argue that Sam's forgetfulness is all part of an act, which listeners have become accustomed to. Sonny and Sam have always had strong personas and a lot can happen behind the scenes that people don't know about.
One gentleman gave his opinion on ExtremeSkins.com.
I always say Sam is senile, Sonny is drunk and Larry is there to try and hold it together.
But all joking aside, there is a growing concern about Huff, and his ability to react quickly to plays on the field.
Now please don't get me wrong. Sam Huff has meant the world to the Redskins and their fans. He's as loyal as they come and his chemistry and spontaneity with Sonny, Larry and former play-by-play ace Frank Herzog have made for some memorable moments.
But what about the awkward moments, when gaffes occur, and football knowledge is lost in translation?
Studies have shown that chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE) has been found to occur in athletes who have received repeated blows to the head. It is a "progressive disease" that can cause confusion, aggression, loss of motor skills and depression. According to Boston University's Center for the Study of Traumatic Encephalopathy, "changes in the brain can begin months, years, or even decades after the last brain trauma or end of active athletic involvement."
At 6'1", 230 pounds, Huff was average in size as a middle linebacker, but he liked to "put a licking" on ball carriers when he got them in his sights.
"We try to hurt everybody," Huff said in an interview with Time. "We hit each other as hard as we can. This is a man's game."
Huff played professional football for 14 years, at a time when helmets were far less safe than they are now. But despite the development of new head gear, brain injuries continue to occur in adults and children that participate in the sport. Some of them can even be fatal.
Memory loss is a common result of CTE and is often a sign of dementia. Just last year, former Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback Terry Bradshaw admitted that he suffers from short-term memory problems and the loss of eye-hand coordination. Like Huff, Bradshaw provides analysis as a football broadcaster, but behind his bubbly exterior is a man that suffers daily from a degenerative disease.
Brain injuries are no laughing matter and numerous athletes are now voicing their concerns about them. Thousands of former NFL players have joined together in a lawsuit that accuses the NFL of failing to keep them safe from head trauma and its after-effects. Several former Redskins have also filed suits, including Hall of Famer Art Monk and Super Bowl MVP Mark Rypien.
Of course, we must emphasize that there is no medical evidence that confirms that Huff suffers from any type of brain disease. He may check out fine and age may be the cause for his memory lapses. But there is growing proof that CTE can cause a plethora of problems for those who have it and don't know it.
Chicago Bears great Dave Dureson was certain that he had CTE and sought to help others who shared his fate. Dureson eventually committed suicide, but left a note behind that urged medical researchers to examine his brain. Tests results revealed that he was right.
Sonny's 78th birthday is in August and Sam turns 78 in October. That alone is cause for celebration. But with more time on his hands, Huff would be wise to seek a doctor's opinion, in case he has developed something that can be monitored by doctors or improved by medicine.
Huff's world has always been a violent one, but it doesn't need to be that way in his golden years.
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