Walt Sweeney, a former offensive lineman for the San Diego Chargers, has died of pancreatic cancer. He was 71 years old.
Sweeney was known as a standout player in the ’60s and ’70s and had nine AFL All-Star Games and Pro Bowl Games to his credit. He spent a whopping eleven seasons with the Chargers and two with the Redskins, and played 181 consecutive games in his career.
But the talented athlete had a dark side to his life which was perhaps brought on by overdoing it on the field; in the mid-’90s, Sweeney claimed he was hooked on pain medication that the NFL forced upon him and sued. A judge ruled that he be paid $1.8 million, but the ruling was later overturned on appeal.
In the past few years, more and more people are taking a look at the practices of the NFL regarding how the players are treated for injuries, particularly wounds to the head. Last year, after Junior Seau died of a self-inflicted gunshot wound, his brain was autopsied for injuries and it was discovered that he suffered from something called CTE, which is caused by multiple blows to the head. CTE causes dementia and depression, which his family believes led to his suicide. They are currently involved in a lawsuit with the NFL.