Pro Football Hall of Famer Nick Buoniconti publicly revealed he suffers from memory loss among other ailments stemming from his 14-year pro football career, Sports Illustrated reported Tuesday.
Buoniconti, the defensive leader of the Miami Dolphins' undefeated championship team of 1972, stopped short of saying he suffers from the brain disease known as chronic traumatic encephalopathy. But the 76-year-old estimates he took approximately 520,000 blows to the head during his playing career when the then-Boston Patriots and Dolphins.
The awareness of CTE over the past decade has plagued the NFL as more and more accounts are shared publicly. The death of Hall of Famer Junior Seau in 2012 at age 43 just 2 1/2 years after his playing career ended was particularly alarming.
Yet Buoniconti feels the NFL still isn't taking head trauma seriously enough.
"We're the players who have built the game but have been forgotten," Buoniconti said. "The settlement (the NFL made in 2013 over concussion lawsuits) is a joke; the way it is structured is a joke.
"They are waiting for us to die. They're going to play the clock until everybody dies."
Buoniconti said one of his worst concussions occurred during Super Bowl VI, a game the Dolphins lost 24-3 to the Dallas Cowboys.
He said he slammed into a Dallas player during the third quarter and was knocked unconscious but kept on playing until the game was over.
"That was the worst one," Buoniconti told Sports Illustrated. "I don't remember playing."
Buoniconti said recent MRI exams have displayed his brain is shrinking. He is greatly disturbed about his declining quality of life and becomes introspective about the plusses and minuses of being a football player.
"I didn't have any idea the price would be this debilitating," Buoniconti said. "Had I known, would I have played? I had no alternative; there was no other way for me to get a college education.
"Football kept rewarding me -- I can't deny that. But I'm paying the price. Everybody pays the piper."
Buoniconti played college football at Notre Dame before his NFL career. He intercepted 24 passes in seven seasons with the Patriots (1962-68) before being traded to the Dolphins.
He was initially upset over the trade but his career skyrocketed in Miami. He was part of two Super Bowl championship clubs and was one of the most popular Dolphins until retiring in 1976.
Buoniconti was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 2001.
In 1985, Buoniconti's son, Marc, was paralyzed after being injured in a college football game while playing for The Citadel.