Eagles Great Andre Waters: “Football Killed Him”

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Mere hours before the Eagles would invite controversy by briefly playing both Kevin Kolb and Stewart Bradley after both men sustained concussions, the Palm Beach Post published a warning encased in the full-length story of another Eagle.

His name was Andre Waters, and his incredibly tragic tale is regarded as the impetus for the NFL's new agressive approach to preventing concussions, the turning point in how serious the long-term effects are regarded.

Nearly four years ago, Waters stepped onto the pool deck of his Tampa home in the middle of the night clutching a .32-caliber Smith & Wesson pistol. He ended his life after only 44 years.

After Waters' suicide, Bennet Omalu, the doctor who studied his brain -- and that of other NFL players who died young -- said the damage he discovered was consistent with that of 80- to 90-year-olds suffering from dementia.

Family and friends are still not sure what made Waters pull the trigger, but Omalu offers a stark conclusion.

"Football killed him," the doctor said.

"Dirty" Waters was an Eagles legend, but he was also a league-wide lightning rod. His helmet-to-the-knees style at safety under Buddy Ryan earned plenty of detractors, but it earned him even more blows to the head -- blows which, Omalu concluded, injured the part of his brain that regulates mood.

No one can say if or how much Waters' actions were prompted by brain damage -- references to suicide were found as far as six years prior to his death -- and I'm certainly not suggesting the Eagles' medical staff are going to lead them to that particular solution to this would-be quarterback controversey.

But it's pretty amazing that Sunday, after we've had years to add to what was learned from the test on Waters' brain, and on the very day four pages were devoted to his story, Philadelphia still sent a man into battle moments after he wobbled his way up from the ground, took two unsteady steps, and disturbingly collapsed onto the field on national television.

After all, if anyone should know to err on the side of caution, it's the Eagles. "Dirty" Waters was one of their own, and now he's gone.

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