Few former Dallas Cowboys are as revered as Rayfield Wright.
"He was absolutely the best. Rayfield was a big, strong guy that was able to transfer his size and strength from tight end to tackle. He also had such quick feet that he was able to deal with some of the faster defensive ends and even the linebacker blitzes. If he got beat, I don't remember it." - Roger Staubach
Sadly, Wright has been getting beat for years and we knew nothing about it until recently. Earlier today, Dave posted a link in the News & Notes column to a story about Wright.
"You don’t want people to look at you any differently. When you’ve been at the top of the N.F.L., you don’t want people to know. You’re supposed to be tough and invincible. So if something’s wrong with you, you try to hide it. Which is exactly what I did." - Rayfield Wright
The legendary Cowboys offensive lineman is suffering the effects of dementia. Diagnosed in the spring of 2012, Wright had long avoided getting himself tested because, as he stated to Juliet Macur of the New York Times, he did not want to have the issue that he suspected was ruining his life confirmed by doctors. After playing more than 180 NFL games in his illustrious career and suffering so many concussions that he couldn't count them, Rayfield Wright would now be forced to pay an undeserved price for the glory that he received.
"Sometimes, I walk into the kitchen and forget why I went there. I’ve gotten into several car accidents because of. Totaled two cars. My memory is not good. There’s a big fight within myself."
He stopped for a few seconds and looked me straight in the eye, giving me a menacing gaze that must have terrified defensive linemen. Then he spoke through clenched teeth. "I’m fighting right now while I’m talking to you," he said. "I have a. I don’t want to keep talking. But I know it’s time."
Even more startling than his icy stare were the tears welling in his eyes. Wright knows that waiting for a better deal won’t help him, that time is not on his side.
"I’m scared," he said. He buried his face in his giant hands before looking up again and almost pleading, "I don’t want this to happen." He wiped a tear from his cheek.
"I just want to know why this is happening to me,"
How bad is Rayfield's condition? He now requires the constant care of his former girlfriend, now his caregiver, Jeannette DeVader. Wright can no longer be left alone for fear of his own safety. The game that he loved and played so well is taking everything he has, including his mind. Now 68 years of age, Wright's issues are not simply from his advancing age. Wright recently revealed that the effects of head injuries played a significant role in why he chose to retire when he did. At that time he was already suffering through severe headaches, bouts of dizziness, and unexplained irritability which often turned to rage. He was also beginning to suffer memory loss at the young age of 34. The fact that he could no longer remember plays that he had ran for years also played a role in his decision to retire from the game.
Since walking away from the game, Wright has experienced seizures which have forced him to give up driving himself. Before he surrendered his license Wright was involved in four accidents, they were all thought to be a result of the lasting effects of his career. He can no longer give the speeches and attend autograph sessions that once helped him support himself. With an NFL pension of $82.20 per month and a total monthly income of less than $2,500, he cannot hope to off-set the tens of thousands of dollars in medical bills that he is receiving. He was even forced to decline an invitation to the recent Super Bowl in Dallas due to concerns that he would experience a seizure during the festivities. Wright, as much as he wants to watch, may not tune in to this Sunday's match-up between Denver and Seattle. Thanks to his condition, and the related depression and short attention span that come with it, he cannot make it through an entire game.
Over the course of 13 seasons in the National Football League, Rayfield Wright gave the game everything he had, now the time has long since passed for the league to return the favor and stand by not only Wright, but all the players upon whose backs the league became what it is today. Players like Wright are fading into a world of darkness as a result of the game, and as he stated:
"I need this issue with the N.F.L. to be resolved now. A person could die before they ever settle this."