Former Packer Gary Knafelc: NFL hoping retired players die off

Gary Knafelc played tight end for the Packers from 1954-1962. A lot has changed in the half-century since he retired -- the NFL has grown into a multi-billion dollar business; offenses and defenses have evolved; players are bigger, faster and stronger; and player-safety is now the league's top priority.

But Knafelc said the NFL and NFL Players Association have been less helpful to those players who helped make the game what it is today.

"We don't have a voice, and I really believe the reason that we don't have a voice is that they're hoping that if we keep dying off at the rate we are, we'll be all dead and they won't have to worry about anything," Knafelc told John Maino of WTMJ 620. "I'm not kidding at all," he continued. "I'm very serious about that."  

Knafelc's solution: "The NFL Players Association has to step up and protect us, and they don't do that," he said. "All they care about is the current players and the guys that played after 1970. The ones that played prior to that, they've kind of just forgotten entirely." 

Earlier this month, Hall of Famer Lem Barney, who is one of many former players suing the NFL for how it handled head injuries, said he didn't think the league would exist in 10-20 years.

"The game is becoming more deadly today," he said. "It's a great game. I think it's the greatest game if you like gladiators. It's the greatest game for yesteryear's gladiators. But I can see in the next 10 to maybe 20 years, society will alleviate football altogether."

Current players like Denver's Kevin Vickerson and Tennessee's Bernard Pollard have shared similar sentiments.

Still, despite the inherent risks, Knafelc said he has no regrets.

"As dumb as I am, I would do it again for the same money if I could," he said.

* Image via Topps

Follow Ryan Wilson on Google+

CBS Sports Writer

Ryan Wilson has been an NFL writer for CBS Sports since June 2011, and he's covered five Super Bowls in that time. Ryan previously worked at AOL's FanHouse from start to finish, and Football Outsiders... Full Bio

Show Comments Hide Comments
Our Latest Stories
    CBS Sports Shop