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Mike Ditka: Nobody was forced to take painkillers
Former Bears Jim McMahon, Richard Dent and Keith Van Horne were part of a lawsuit this week that accuses the NFL of illegally dispensing drugs to players to help mask pain and injuries.
The three played for coach Mike Ditka on the 1985 Super Bowl championship team.
“They were provided to us from our trainer,” Van Horne told hosts Dan McNeil and Matt Spiegel. “You weren’t handed a prescription and went to Walgreens to fill these things given out. They were given to you by a trainer in a little manila envelope with his handwriting, ‘Take one of these twice a day’ or whatever direction it would be. And that’s how the drugs were given. Whatever they needed you to take in order to be able to get on the field to play, you were going to be taking. There wasn’t any discussion about any long-term effects.”
During an interview for his weekly Sunday Sun-Times column, “4 Downs with Ditka,” the former coach was asked what he thought his ex-players were trying to accomplish with this lawsuit against the NFL.
“I don’t know,” he said. “I have no idea. Did they know what they were doing when they did it? I don’t know. The game of football has been too good to me. I have injuries. I’ve had things that have happened to me. But I’m not going to sit back and complain what’s happened to me. I’ve had a great life playing the game. I’ve enjoyed it. Everything has been terrific. But all of a sudden now …”
Ditka went on to say that he took painkillers and it adversely affected his career and life after football.
“Have I ever taken a pain pill? Of course I took pain pills. Did I ever take injections? I took injections all the time to kill the pain—Novocaine, Cortisone. Did it affect me? Yeah. It shortened my career, but so what. I had a great career. I’m still living off football.
“I think I understand that there’s a lot of money involved here. I deal with the Gridiron Greats. We’re fighting for the players’ rights as far as concussions and a couple of other things go.
“The meds thing … I don’t know. If you don’t want to take them, don’t take them. I don’t think anybody ever forces anyone to do anything. If you don’t want to take it, don’t take it. If you want it, they were available. There’s no question about that. Is that right? I don’t know.”