NEW YORK DAILY NEWS
Sunday, November 29, 2015, 1:16 AM
Giants great Frank Gifford was suffering from CTE at the time of his death, showing just how brutal football can be on one’s body.
This was the week in pro football when we discovered, thanks to Frank Gifford’s family, that one of the great Giants of all, a giant of his sport and later television, was suffering from CTE at the time of his death.
This was a week that really began in pro football with us witnessing Case Keenum of the Rams looking like a fighter gamely trying to beat a 10-count after getting knocked down, obviously (brain) wounded after a hit that snapped his head back to the turf, but still being allowed to continue playing.
And making you want to ask the Rams’ coach, Jeff Fisher, and his trainers and even league spotters in the booth what the hell they were all watching.
This was the week in pro football when we saw Tony Romo knocked down and finally knocked out of the season for good with his second broken collarbone of the season. Romo rushed back from the first broken collarbone because he was going to save the Cowboys’ season, because that is the code of his sport and all sports, that you get back up and get back out there, until you are flat on your back for good.
It is a hard, violent game. Frank Gifford was one of the first to show the pro football world that on television when he got concussed in November of 1960 at Yankee Stadium after getting laid out by Chuck Bednarik of the Eagles. Gifford didn’t stay in that game, he went to the hospital. He didn’t come right back to the Giants because he retired for a year instead. But he came back, you bet. They all come back until somebody finally tells them they can’t. Sugar Ray Leonard once came back to fight after a detached retina.
“You play,” Archie Manning was saying on Friday. “People look at (Brett Favre) now and say, ‘Hey, he always played.’ That just means he kept playing when he was hurt. I know I did. Tried to rig up a cast for my left arm one time so I could keep playing. Shouldn’t have. Did, anyway.”
Archie Manning said, “There’s always a four-word exchange that never changes. Somebody says, ‘Can you go?’ You say, ‘Yeah.’
“That’s it. ‘Can you go?’ ‘Yeah.’”
On the day after Thanksgiving, Archie Manning talked about having just finished a two-hour workout. He has had his knee replaced and had back surgeries, and that is the bill that has been presented to original No. 18 in the Manning family for all the times he got knocked down playing for bad teams in his career. He was with the Saints for 10 seasons and nine of them were losing seasons and during that time he was sacked 340 times and go ahead and do the math on that.
“Now I’m just trying to get my body back to where I can be normal,” he said.
He was a great quarterback, in college and the pros, respected not just for his athletic character and his talent but for his toughness as well, for the way he kept getting back up even as he wasted his NFL prime on all those bad teams in New Orleans. Later he watched Peyton Manning play Sunday after Sunday and never miss a game until his sport caught up with him. He tried to play hurt this season for the Broncos until he could not, in this second act for him in Denver after surgeries on his neck.
“There’s something to be said for getting rid of the ball,” Archie Manning said. “Peyton’s always gotten the ball out of his hands. But they finally got him.”
It is not just quarterbacks, of course, in a league where they do everything possible to protect them. You look at centers right before they snap the ball, and then imagine them leading with their heads for their entire careers. One of the sad and moving and memorable moments of this year’s Hall of Fame induction ceremony was watching Fran Tarkenton stand next to Mick Tingelhoff, his old center, and speak for him, as Tingelhoff — one of hundreds of former players to join a concussion lawsuit against the NFL, now suffering from memory loss and dementia — stood silently next to him.
Concussions continue to be a major problem in the NFL, as evidenced by Rams QB Case Keenum last week.
On Friday Archie Manning spoke of Frank Gifford, and the news we got about him this week, and referenced the hit that Chuck Bednarik put on Gifford 55 years ago this month at the Stadium.
“That one lick (from Bednarik) coulda done that,” Manning said.
His family has become as much the First Family of the modern NFL as any. Archie had a storied and star-crossed career, starting at Ole Miss. Now two of his sons grow up to be not just Super Bowl-winning quarterbacks, but back-to-back Super Bowl MVPs. Peyton has numbers that will be up in lights for as long as pro football is played in this country. Eli was the quarterback for the Giants in two of the biggest and most memorable Super Bowls ever played. In the first one, he and the Giants kept the Patriots from finishing an NFL season at 19-0.
Now Eli, as tough as his old man, is the one who never misses a game for the Giants. There was an NFC Championship Game against the 49ers at old Candlestick Park when the 49ers kept putting him on the ground the way players used to put Archie Manning on the ground when he played for the Saints.
Eli kept getting back up until he won that game.
Now he is the leader, out of all the players in pro football, for consecutive games started. He will take that streak to 178 on Sunday against Washington. His brother once went to 208 in a row.
By the way? Mick Tingelhoff is way up on the all-time list for consecutive games, at 240.
“When I started in the league,” Archie Manning said, “tough guy linebackers weren’t all that bigger than me, or even all that faster. Now they’re 6-4 and 245 and can just bust you up.”
Then you get back up. That’s the sport. That’s the code. Look what it did for Tony Romo. Case Keenum didn’t even leave the game, because of the same four words as always:
Can you go?
There will never be protocols that protect anybody from that.
Jet tidings, the backward Sixers & Pete Hamill’s New York…
-Two words for Jets fans, if their team can’t do any better on offense than it did in the fourth quarter last Sunday against the Houston Texans:
One other thing about last Sunday’s late-game slapstick:
That wasn’t T. Brady the Jets were being asked to stop.
It was T.J. Yates.
Is it time for the Nets to go trade for more members of the AARP?
If the Giants are going to be a legit contender in the NFC, where so many teams are in a scrum behind the Carolina Panthers, they need to be legit at one o’clock against Washington.
-Can’t the NBA just seize the Philadelphia 76ers somehow, take them over the way Major League Baseball did with the Montreal Expos back in the day?
Sixer fans are supposed to believe that one of these seasons everything is going to fall into place and their team is going to be magically transformed into the Houston Astros.
Except that with their insanely overmatched general manager, Sam Hinkie, in charge, these fans feel as if they’ve lost a bet.
It is why a franchise that has won as many NBA championships as the Knicks has become the clown college of professional sports on Hinkie’s watch.
What was a greater threat on Friday in Colorado, a Planned Parenthood clinic or the automatic weapon that guy carried through the front door?
-You watch the Knicks play some nights, even as there was practically dancing on 33rd St. after an 8-6 start, and wonder how the whole thing would look with guards.
Maybe things will turn around for Jose Calderon, who we were told was born to play the triangle, but for now he makes you think of an existential question:
Why is he here?
Derek Fisher still looks like a guy getting on-the-job training.
“Bridge of Spies” is a great movie.
-If you have not yet read Pete Hamill’s piece in National Geographic about New York City, do it today, either by buying the magazine or simply finding it at nationalgeographic.com.
The headline on the web site is this: “A New York Writer’s Take on How His City Has Changed.”
What it does is remind you that even now, at 80, Pete Hamill hasn’t changed, that he still writes as powerfully and eloquently about his city — about everything, really — as he ever has.
You go to this piece not just to read what he has written about the city of his youth and the city it has become, but also to be amazed by George Steinmetz’s photographs, some of them like miracles out of the sky.
“To some extent,” Pete Hamill writes, “this is a lament written by another old guy fighting off the longing for the past. As I move through the once familiar areas of today’s big town, pausing the way I did in the past, too often I see people who are long gone. Too many friends. A few lovers. How many times did I start a day with lunch at the Carnegie Deli? The table packed with friends, the talk a kind of chorus line, the laughter a torrent.
Afterward, we would stroll along 57th Street, savoring the drama of the human show. Now it’s called Billionaires’ Row. Back then, it was just another neighborhood.”
That is the end of the column today.
Nobody can top that.