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Chicago Bears quarterback Erik Kramer looks for a reciever during the Bears’ 14-6 victory over the Minnesota Vikings on Monday night, Oct. 30, 1995, in Minneapolis. Kramer had two touchdown passes and completed 18 of 25 for 231 yards. (AP Photo/Andy Manis)

Tragically, Erik Kramer is another toll tale

SHARE Tragically, Erik Kramer is another toll tale
SHARE Tragically, Erik Kramer is another toll tale

All this violence.

It starts to get to you after a while. And by that, I mean all of us. We sports fans.

Is this what football is about?

Not the carnage we see on the field, but off it?

Did former Lions and Bears quarterback Erik Kramer, depressed and likely hopeless and mentally dark as tar, attempt suicide by shooting himself on Tuesday night in a hotel room in California?

Kramer, 50, played 10 years in the NFL, with two of them standing out dramatically. There was the 1991 season for Detroit when he came off the bench at the midway point and led the Lions to their first playoff win in 35 years.

And there was 1995 season for the Bears when he completed over 60 percent of his passes for a then-team record 3,838 yards and 29 touchdowns and had only 10 interceptions. He started all 16 games that season — the only time he did so in his career — and was sacked only 15 times.

But none of that matters now except, perhaps, the sacks, and the rest of the possible blows to the head he took during his career.

Marshawn, his ex-wife, blames those concussions and subconcussive hits, reported or not, for creating the darkness in Kramer’s mind that seemingly led him to this tragic place. The latest reports have said Kramer is in ‘‘critical condition’’ after the gunshot wound.

“He is a very amazing man, a beautiful soul, but he has suffered depression since he was with the Bears,’’ Marshawn said in a telephone interview with NBC News on Wednesday. “I can promise you he is not the same man I married.”

Here’s what resonates: ‘‘since he was with the Bears.’’

Kramer was a quiet but upbeat, exceedingly confident young quarterback when I met him after he led the Lions to that magical 38-6 thrashing of the Cowboys in the 1991 postseason. In that game at the deafening Silverdome, he completed 29 of 38 passes for 341 yards and three touchdowns with no interceptions.

‘‘What I don’t understand,’’ he said as he peeled tape off his knee after the game, ‘‘is why people would think we’d get blown out by Dallas.’’

Well, the Cowboys had won 11 of their last 14 and had Michael Irvin, Emmitt Smith, etc. But never mind.

Kramer, then 27, had started only two NFL games in his first four seasons, and here he was — just 6-1, 195 pounds — leading his team to new heights.

I joked with him that evening about having played in the Potato Bowl while in junior college, but he didn’t think that was all that funny, likely because his team, Los Angeles Pierce, lost to Taft College 51-24.

Later, we would talk good-naturedly about his first-born son, Griffen, who was born just about the time Marshawn and Erik moved to Chicago — to a townhouse in Lake Bluff — after he was traded to the Bears.

That Griffen, a backup quarterback at Thousand Oaks (California) High School, died of a heroin overdose as an 18-year-old in 2011 must have half-destroyed his dad. No family takes such grief easily.

So Marshawn is the one who knows the difference in her onetime mate and husband.

“He’s such a good dad, and he would not do this to his son,” Marshawn told NBC News. “This is brain injury.”

Likely, it is. Do we need more Dave Duersons, Junior Seaus, Ray Easterlings, Justin Strzelczyks, Jovan Belchers, etc., to kill themselves to have a pretty good idea about the damage repeated blows to the head can have on certain football players?

I don’t think so.

And if we here in Chicago were watching an over-achieving quarterback destroy himself on the field playing the game he loved, for our pleasure, that is not a good feeling.

Back in January 1992, after that Lions playoff victory, I wrote in Sports Illustrated: ‘‘[Kramer] had touch and poise and vision. He lofted the ball, and he dumped it off. He took what the Cowboys were giving. Which was everything north of the Alamo. Bobby Layne never had a playoff game like this. Hardly any quarterback in history has.’’

Kramer was a friendly man, and through the years, we had many a nice chat. Yet maybe he had a predisposition for this kind of sadness.

His brain will be studied someday, I’ll bet. Like so many other former football players’ brains have.

And what scientists will find, I’m thinking, is the remnants of a dangerous game.

Follow me on Twitter @ricktelander.

Email: rtelander@suntimes.com

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