Rob Lytle

ROB LYTLE, 56, running back with Denver, 1977-83, died of a massive heart attack in 2010 after having suffered a stroke in 2009, and was found to have moderate to severe CTE.  Involved in one of the most famous plays in Broncos history, against the Oakland Raiders in the 1978 AFC championship game, he revealed in an April 2007 interview that he had suffered a concussion against the Pittsburgh Steelers the previous week. He said he briefly blacked out when Raiders safety Jack Tatum hit him on his carry from the Oakland 2-yard line.  Lytle lost control of the ball and the Raiders recovered, but officials ruled his forward motion was stopped before the fumble, and Denver scored on the next play, winning 20-17 to advance to their first Super Bowl.  “Honest to God, I don’t even remember the play,” Lytle said, laughing in 2007. “I told you what happened the week before. So I must have had a bad concussion. I had headaches and stuff, but those were the days that you didn’t … well, it was a different era. I went over the top and Tatum hit me. I can’t tell you (anything) other than what I see on film, because I was out.”  Lytle’s son, Kelly, said, “(Doctors) said to us, ‘Your dad must have been a hyper-intelligent individual.’  They said the reason for that was because of what we told them and the fact that he still was able to hold down a day-to-day job without any negative reports from it.  He had been able to mask it.  They were shocked that with as far along as the CTE was, that he was more or less able to compensate and mask it with the normalcy of his day-to-day life.”  Lytle was working as a bank executive when he died.  Kelly has written a book, “To Dad, From Kelly” about their relationship. Lytle’s widow, Tracy, is part of the class-action lawsuit against the NFL.  Tracy, Kelly and the Lytles’ daughter, Erin Tober, are on the family advisory board of SLI, Sports Legacy Institute, which, in conjunction with Boston University, examines brains for CTE. “He understood that football was such a violent game and that by playing it he was putting his body and his mind and everything at risk,” Kelly said. “For him that was kind of the acceptable collateral damage because he loved the game so much that he wanted to be part of it.”–“CTE “warning signs” existed before former Broncos RB Rob Lytle’s death in 2010″, DenverPost.com 5/26/15, Terry Frei.

Jeff Tarpinian

JEFF TARPINIAN, 27, linebacker with New England and Houston, 2011-14, blacked out for about 30 seconds after a November 2011 practice.  His vision had blurred and his arm locked.  The diagnosis was a cavernous malformation and he underwent brain surgery to remove abnormal blood vessels near his cerebellum.  Tarpinian understandably did not reveal the surgery, as he knew it would be an employment-killer with other NFL teams after New England let him go.  But Houston was aware of it when they signed him and he has played for them as a backup.—“Texans Linebacker Reveals He Had Brain Surgery Two Years Ago”, Deadspin.com 12/25/13, Samer Kalaf.