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Archive for Tuesday, August 5, 2003

Tell it like it is: These guys are too fat

NFL must recognize linemen’s problems are because they have become too massive

August 5, 2003

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Instead of trying to dance around the real reason for the increasing number of heat-related, training-camp collapses, why won't some NFL team physician put it in a way that everybody understands:

The players are too freaking fat.

Forget about all these scientific symposiums and studies the NFL is conducting to reduce its liability. Here's the only analytical equation you need to know:

Fat man plus hot sun equals heatstroke.

Last week, two Jacksonville Jaguars players -- Larry Smith and John Henderson -- were hospitalized after passing out at training camp. Smith weighs 300 pounds, Henderson 310 pounds. Their collapses come on the heels of a lawsuit filed by the widow of Korey Stringer, the 335-pound Minnesota Vikings offensive tackle who collapsed and died during training camp in 2001.

You don't have to be a physiologist to know that the larger the mass of a surface area, the harder it is to cool. The shocking thing is that there haven't been more deaths in the gobbling, gorging, gluttonous NFL (Never Full League).

"You're going to see more and more players falling out during training camp," former Tampa Bay Buccaneers defensive tackle Brad Culpepper said. "The players are getting heavier and heavier, and let's face it: 330 pounds is not a natural weight for anybody. It's unnatural and unsafe. It's too much strain on your heart to pump blood through that much fat."

This unhealthy lifestyle was one of the chief reasons Culpepper, now an attorney in Tampa, Fla., couldn't wait to retire. He spent his career bulking up to the inflated weight of 280 pounds. Now, he weighs 195 pounds and feels better than he has since childhood.

"I've never had this much energy," Culpepper said. "Think of how hard your body has to work to lug around all that extra weight."

There was a day in pro football when being 300 pounds was taboo; it meant you were too fat to play. Now, if you weigh less than 300, you're considered a malnourished runt. As recently as 1980, the league had no 300-pound players. This year, nearly 500 300-pounders are grunting their way through training camp.

Bubba Paris, the former 340-pound offensive tackle for the San Francisco 49ers, told me Monday that one of his teammates used to consume 8,000 calories a day just so he could get near 300 pounds. Can you imagine -- intentionally eating to get fat, players purposely bloating their bodies just so they can compete?

"Even if you're not genetically big, you're going to do what you have to do to put on weight," Paris said. "Millions of dollars are riding on it."

But the tax on these millions of dollars is too often exacted on the player's body. Former New Orleans Saints defensive lineman Frank Warren, one of the NFL's original 300-pounders, died last year of heart disease at age 43. Former Vikings offensive lineman Curtis Rouse, a 350-pounder who was once the NFL's heaviest player, had a stroke several years ago at age 37. He weighed nearly 500 pounds at the time.

In the NFL, the bigger they are, the easier they fall.

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