To a generation of TV and film fans, Alex Karras will forever be the loving adoptive dad on the 1980s sitcom "Webster" or the big guy who punched a horse in 1974's "Blazing Saddles." Before his acting days, he was a football star, a three-time All-Pro defensive tackle for the Detroit Lions in the 1960s.
Now 76, and diagnosed with dementia, Karras is taking on the role of lead plaintiff: He and his wife, Susan Clark, are two of 119 people who filed suit Thursday in U.S. District Court in Philadelphia, the latest complaint brought against the NFL by ex-players who say the league didn't do enough to protect them from head injuries.
"All through the time that I've been with him, he has suffered headaches and dizziness and high blood pressure and all kinds of things that are ... usually the result of multiple concussions," Clark said from Los Angeles in a telephone interview with The Associated Press.
Clark, who also played the wife of Karras' character on "Webster," said he was formally diagnosed with dementia about seven years ago, but symptoms first showed up more than a dozen years ago.
Day-to-day life, Clark said, "would be very difficult for him without help. He doesn't drive a car anymore. He used to love to drive. He was an amazing cook, Italian and Greek food. He doesn't cook anything at all anymore -- he can't remember what his recipes were."
Karras and 69 other ex-players named in Thursday's suit are among more than 1,000 former NFL players suing the league, lawyers involved say. The cases say not enough was done to inform players about the dangers of concussions in the past, and not enough is done to take care of them today.
NFL spokesman Greg Aiello declined to comment Thursday. In the past, the NFL has said it did not intentionally seek to mislead players and has taken action to better protect players and to advance the science of concussion management and treatment.
Copyright 2012 by The Associated Press