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Joe DeLamielleure's suspicions affirmed by CTE diagnosis

By Tim Graham

Buffalo Bills legend Joe DeLamielleure already figured his brain was damaged from years of playing football.

Recent tests at UCLA merely confirmed his belief.

ESPN's "Outside the Lines" reported today that DeLamielleure, fellow Pro Football Hall of Famer Tony Dorsett and former All-Pro Leonard Marshall have been diagnosed with signs of chronic traumatic encephalopathy, the degenerative brain condition scientists believe is caused by repeated collisions.

"If you played football in my era, and you played as long as I played," DeLamielleure told me tonight, "there's a very, very good chance you got CTE. I knew for years I had some issues."

CTE usually isn't diagnosed until an autopsy. Over 50 former NFL players have been diagnosed posthumously, as former players and their families increasingly agree to will their brains for study to help understand the long-term neurological impact of repeated collisions.

Many former NFL players suffer from dementia and depression. Research has shown NFL players have eight to 10 times the likelihood of being diagnosed with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), the incurable neuromuscular disorder commonly known as Lou Gehrig's disease, than the average citizen.

That's because CTE mimics ALS, and the actual cause can't be learned until an autopsy. Some brains, including retired superstars such as Junior Seau and Dave Duerson, were found to have CTE after suicides.

UCLA researchers identified the condition in living players for the first time a year ago. DeLamielleure said UCLA used a nuclear PET scan for his diagnosis.

"When I heard they had a test for CTE, I wanted to know for myself and for my family," DeLamielleure said. "We want to improve things not just for me, but for all people. This can help people who have dementia, strokes.

"I just don't want there to ever be another Junior Seau. To me, that is the saddest of sad stories. He played 20 years and killed himself. Let's start helping these guys."

Dorsett, a celebrated Dallas Cowboys running back, told ESPN his symptoms include depression, memory loss and suicidal thoughts. Dorsett told the network that on his flight from Dallas to visit UCLA, he repeatedly forgot why he was on the plane and where he was going.

DeLamielleure, 62, is a lifelong fitness nut and called himself "very functional" despite his diagnosis. He's fortunate that his wife of 41 years, Gerri, is a nurse.

But he explained he has insomnia and mood swings and gets inexplicably depressed when he's by himself for any amount of time.

"I should not be depressed," DeLamielleure said. "I'm happily married. I got six children. They've all grown up and gone to college. I got 10 grandchildren. They're all healthy. I have a great job, and I'm able to do speaking engagements.

"I get depressed for what reasons? It's from football."

DeLamielleure played right guard for the Bills from 1973 through 1979. He was the star of the "Electric Company," the line that blocked for record-setting running back O.J. Simpson.

DeLamielleure played five seasons with the Cleveland Browns before finishing his career with the Bills in 1985. He went to six Pro Bowls and was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 2003.

He said he never was diagnosed with a concussion, but conceded he probably had hundreds. He told The Sporting News last year that if he had a chance to go back in time, he would not play football.

"It can't be from anything else but football," DeLamielleure said. "My CTE is from hitting my head against Fred Smerlas twice a day for six weeks over the course of years, and for playing against Jack Lambert and Joe Greene and hitting my head every day.

"And if you didn't put your head in when I played, they said you were a big sissy."

He added he has 60 percent hearing loss in his left ear from repeatedly getting slapped in the helmet.

DeLamielleure has been a vocal critic of the NFL for not taking care of retired players or providing adequate healthcare.

At the Pro Football Hall of Fame this summer, he and Bruce Smith were among 16 inductees who signed a letter that expressed to NFL commissioner Roger Goodell their dismay over a "continued denial of the link between repeated head impacts and permanent brain damage."

"We have sub-poverty pensions and no healthcare," DeLamielleure said. "We try to tell the NFL, 'Give us healthcare so we don't have to go through this.' But if you played before '93, you don't get it.

"That's depressing. They haven't taken care of us."

Bills must pick up statistical pace over final eight games

By Tim Graham

The Buffalo Bills' season is halfway over, and I know how to multiply by two.

So look out.

We've heard much about Mario Williams being on pace to break Bruce Smith's club record for sacks. Overall, however, the Bills are trending toward some disconcerting stats for coach Doug Marrone's first campaign.

Before we take a gander at the numbers, consider the 3-5 Bills have faced a slightly tougher schedule than they will in the second half of the season.

Continue reading "Bills must pick up statistical pace over final eight games" »

Mario Williams named AFC defensive player of week

By Mark Gaughan

Buffalo Bills defensive end Mario Williams has been named AFC defensive player of the week for his two-sack performance against the Miami Dolphins.

Of course, that included a forced fumble against Miami quarterback Ryan Tannehill that set up the winning field goal by the Bills. It's the second time in seven weeks Williams has won the honor.

Williams' 10 sacks are tied for second in the NFL with Kansas City Chiefs outside linebacker Justin Houston. Indianapolis Colts defensive end Robert Mathis has 11.5 sacks.

The Bills' single-season team record for sacks is 19 by Bruce Smith in 1990. Smith's second-best total was 15 in 1986. Bryce Paup had 17.5 sacks for the Bills in 1995.

On hot starts, Mario Williams does Bruce Smith one better

By Tim Graham

MIAMI GARDENS, Fla. -- Mario Williams' reputation as a game-changer is recovering.

"This guy is an athlete and a force," Super Bowl-winning coach Tony Dungy said Sunday night on NBC.

The Bills' pass rush seemed to have a decisive advantage over the Miami Dolphins' beleaguered offensive line Sunday. The Bills ranked third in sacks. The Dolphins had been giving up sacks at a franchise-record pace.

But the Bills were shut out for most of the game before Williams picked up a pair of crucial sacks in the final seven minutes of the game. He pancaked Ryan Tannehill on the first sack and then stripped him on the second sack to help set up Dan Carpenter's winning field goal.

Continue reading "On hot starts, Mario Williams does Bruce Smith one better" »

Points after: Bills 24, Panthers 23

509441 PANTHERS AT BILLS #6
Bills cornerback Leodis McKelvin breaks up a pass intended for Carolina's Steve Smith. (Mark Mulville/Buffalo News)

By Tim Graham

Quick highlights from the Buffalo Bills' thrilling victory over the Carolina Panthers in Ralph Wilson Stadium ...

What it means: The Bills were staring at an 0-2 start but came back to even their record. The Bills lost to the New England Patriots by one point on opening day and could be 2-0 with a bounce or two. There's a lot to feel good about.

Bills player of the game: Mario Williams was a boss. He set a Bills record and a new career-high with 4.5 sacks, three of them in the first half. Williams' previous personal-best was 3.5 sacks for the Texans in December 2007. Bruce Smith had four sacks for the Bills twice, Cornelius Bennett once.

 

Panthers player of the game: Panthers quarterback Cam Newton completed 21 of his 38 throws for 229 yards and two touchdowns, including a gorgeous, 40-yard strike to Ted Ginn in the end zone. Newton also kept several plays alive with his feet and ran for 15 yards.

Turbulent second half for the rookie: EJ Manuel committed two turnovers in a three-play span in the second half. Two plays after his first lost fumble, he threw his first interception. Carolina turned each short-field giveaway into a field goal. But Manuel led the Bills on a nine-play, 80-yard touchdown drive in 96 seconds. He finished 27 of 39 for 296 yards and a touchdown.

Plays of the game: The Panthers appeared to seal the game with safety Colin Jones' interception with 21 seconds to play. But Panthers linebacker Luke Kuechly was called for pass interference, and the Bills kept the ball. Two snaps later, Manuel threw a 2-yard TD toss to Stevie Johnson for the victory. 

Preliminary injury report: Buffalo made it through without any injuries significant enough for a press-box announcement. Defensive tackle Marcell Dareus appeared to have a right knee issue in the first quarter but soon returned. ... A grenade went off in Carolina's secondary. It lost cornerback Josh Thomas (University at Buffalo) and safeties Charles Godfrey and Quintin Mikell. Carolina cornerback Charles Norman also missed time in the third quarter.

Coming up: The Bills will play their first road game next Sunday against the New York Jets at the Meadowlands.

Joe DeLamielleure, Bruce Smith sign brain plea to NFL commish

By Tim Graham

CANTON, Ohio -- Buffalo Bills legends Bruce Smith and Joe DeLamielleure and 16 other Pro Football Hall of Famers have signed a letter that tells NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell they are disappointed in the league's "continued denial of the link between repeated head impacts and permanent brain damage."

The letter was sent two days before the Hall of Fame stages its annual enshrinement weekend. This year is the Hall of Fame's 50th anniversary celebration, with as many as 130 inductees returning to Canton.

"Though the NFL now claims to be better protecting current players from the risks and consequences of head injuries, it is at times difficult to believe, especially as the league continues to evade confirming the link between repeated hits to the head and long-term neurological issues suffered by so many of our football brethren. ...

"No one wants to see another generation of players suffer this fate. As former players, we refuse to stand by quietly and watch men who unknowingly sacrificed their health and future to the NFL go without the care they desperately need."

Continue reading "Joe DeLamielleure, Bruce Smith sign brain plea to NFL commish" »

Ford Taurus rides and tuna melts forged a bond with Ralph Wilson

By Tim Graham

At every Friday practice for nearly three years, Ralph Wilson's golf cart would whir down the stadium tunnel ramp and onto the field.

Troy Vincent knew it was time to leave and shower up.

No matter that three practice periods still remained. Head coach Mike Mularkey and defensive coordinator Jerry Gray were helpless.

Mr. Wilson was there to whisk away their star safety for tuna melts and french fries at Danny's restaurant in Orchard Park.

Continue reading "Ford Taurus rides and tuna melts forged a bond with Ralph Wilson" »

Couple of surprises on PFT's Buffalo Bills Mount Rushmore

By Tim Graham

ProFootballTalk.com has unveiled its Buffalo Bills Mount Rushmore.

And I think there are a couple upsets.

Neither Marv Levy nor Bruce Smith is honored.

Jim Kelly? Check.

O.J. Simpson? Check.

Continue reading "Couple of surprises on PFT's Buffalo Bills Mount Rushmore" »

Marv Levy: Deacon Jones copied George Allen with 'sack' term

By Tim Graham

Deacon Jones did not coin the term "sack." George Allen did.

So says Buffalo Bills legend Marv Levy.

Levy was an assistant on Allen's coaching staff with the 1970 Los Angeles Rams, where Jones played, and in 1971 and 1972 with Washington.

Continue reading "Marv Levy: Deacon Jones copied George Allen with 'sack' term" »

Bruce Smith on Deacon Jones: 'This is going to be a great loss'

By Tim Graham

Deacon Jones, one of the greatest athletes to lace a pair of cleats, passed away Monday at 74.

He was a true NFL original, a legendary player and personality. He came up with the stat we now refer to as the sack. His notorious head slaps were a devastating tactic that since has been outlawed.

Buffalo Bills luminary Bruce Smith holds the official sacks record with 200, but we don't know how many sacks Jones should've been credited with. They weren't an official stat until 1982, and he retired after the 1974 season.

Continue reading "Bruce Smith on Deacon Jones: 'This is going to be a great loss'" »

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About Press Coverage

Tim Graham

Tim Graham

Tim Graham returned to The Buffalo News in 2011 after covering the NFL for three years at ESPN and for one year at the Palm Beach Post. Before that, the Cleveland native spent seven seasons on the Buffalo Sabres beat for The News and was president of the Boxing Writers Association of America.

@ByTimGraham | tgraham@buffnews.com


Mark Gaughan

Mark Gaughan

Buffalo native Mark Gaughan started working at The News in 1980 and has been covering the Bills exclusively since 1992. He is a former president of the Pro Football Writers of America, and he is a member of the Pro Football Hall of Fame selection committee.

@gggaughan | mgaughan@buffnews.com


Jay Skurski

Jay Skurski

Jay Skurski joined The News in January 2009. The Lewiston native attended St. Francis High School before graduating from the University of South Florida. He writes a weekly Fantasy column in addition to his beat writing duties.

@JaySkurski | jskurski@buffnews.com

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