Four downs with Ditka

Written By BY MIKE DITKA Posted: 03/16/2014, 02:33am
Array OAKLAND, CA - SEPTEMBER 15: Defensive end Lamarr Houston #99 of the Oakland Raiders waits for the call from the sidelines against the Jacksonville Jaguars in the third quarter on September 15, 2013 at Coliseum in Oakland, California. The Raiders won 19-9. (Photo by Brian Bahr/Getty Images)

1. Have you liked the Bears’ moves in free agency so far?

I do like what they have done so far. They realize they have to build on their weakness and that’s what they’ve done. They’ve addressed some needs on the defensive line and in the secondary. I think they understand that if they had any defense last year, they would have had a real good shot at winning the division.

2. Do you think the Bears should have tried harder to keep Josh McCown?

You know, he’s a backup quarterback. It’s essential you have your starter in place. I think it came down to salary. When he saw he wasn’t going to get what he wanted, he went somewhere else. I think it’s a good move for Tampa, but also a good move by the Bears. They’ll find someone else to come in and be a backup, maybe not as good as Josh McCown initially, but in time he could be. There are a lot of veteran quarterbacks out there that they can pick up.

3. Sun-Times columnist Rick Telander wrote this week about your former Bears teammate Mike Pyle and his battle with dementia. Your thoughts?

Mike has been going through this for quite a while. You know, probably more than half of the guys who played center from that era have come down with dementia. It’s because the defenses used to tee off on the center.

I haven’t seen Mike in a while, but I used to spend a lot of time with him. I could see the rapid loss of memory then. He was a Yale guy. He was one of the smartest guys I’ve ever been around. He was my roommate for years. All of a sudden, he was a different guy. He didn’t really know where he was. I’m pretty sure he’d still know who I am, but that’s about it.

4. Do you ever worry about memory loss yourself?

Who am I talking to? Who is this? [Laughing after reporter says his name.] I know who you are.

You know, you wake up sometimes and you say, ‘‘Where am I at? Am I in Florida? Am I in Chicago? Am I in a hotel somewhere?’’ Then you have to think about it. I’ve been fine so far. If it happens, it happens. There’s nothing you can do about it.

If you play football long enough, chances are you’re going to get hurt. People didn’t know about concussions long ago. They didn’t understand the ramifications or the long-term effects. They really didn’t know how serious it was.

Could concussions ultimately ruin football?

You know, if you’re a parent with a young son, are you going to let him play football? No, it’s probably going to be basketball, baseball or something else. But not football. Give the kid a set of golf clubs. Basically, that’s what is happening right now.

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