By Peter Gleason
Irv Cross replaced the legendary Tom Brookshier in the Eagles defensive backfield when Brookie suffered a career-ending injury.
And he quickly was dubbed “Paperhead” by his teammates because he often led with his helmet and suffered many concussions.
Andnow Cross, who is 79, has said he will donate his brain to Boston University researchers so they can study it for CTE, the brain disease that has plagued hundreds of former NFL players and has been linked to concussions and repeated blows to the head.
Cross told the Inky that he’s been diagnosed with mild cognitive dementia, which has caused him to stop reading and driving.
A former cornerback for the Eagles and Los Angeles Rams in the 1960s, Cross transitioned to the television booth and worked with CBS until 1994.
His physical brand of football was a result of not knowing the consequence of repeated blows to the head. After getting knocked unconscious during his rookie season, a team doctor told him that another “substantial blow” could kill him.
“I had a helmet made with a little extra padding and played,” he said. “I just tried to keep my head out of the way while making tackles. But that’s just the way it was. Most of the time they gave you some smelling salts and you went back in. We didn’t know.”
The NFL has tried implementing measures to make the game safer – including one this year mandating players not lead with their heads – but Cross implied it’s a futile effort.
“I understand what they’re trying to do,” he said. “They say you’ve got to keep your head out of the vicinity of the play. But how do you do that? I really don’t know how you’re supposed to make a tackle these days.”