Meet Hall of Famer Jim Langer, 12 seasons, including 10 on the Dolphins' offensive line. He walks like a man with nails in his shoes, but he'll never use a walker. "If it gets to that point, I'll move on," he says. What's that mean? "That's my business."
Meet Dan Dierdorf. Lineman, Cardinals, 13 seasons, also in the Hall. Uses a cane when he walks, if you can call what he does walking. Blocking with his head first has left him two inches shorter than he was in college. He's already got two artificial hips, and he's planning to have a second knee replacement. His ankle needs fusing. "I've got more titanium in my body than in my golf bag," Dierdorf says.
Once, Dierdorf happened to be walking down a Canton hallway next to Dick Butkus. They looked like a pair of Iwo Jima survivors. Butkus's legs are so bad, he lumbers along as though he's about to tip forward on his nose. Dierdorf walks like a Maryland crab, from side to side. "If we could've found a guy who walked tipping over backwards," Dierdorf says, "we'd have had every direction covered."
Honestly, I don't want Tiki around anyway if his heart isn't in it.
—DKATZO, BBI CORNER FORUM
Tiki Barber has his money, his memories and most of his cartilage. What he doesn't seem to have is the right to live his own life.
"When I get home from work," says Barber, "my [two- and four-year-old] kids come running at me. They make me get on my knees, and we play tackle football. On replacement knees, that's not happening. I saw this video of O.J. Simpson once, and his kids came running at him and he couldn't even pick them up. So I can see that if I play three or four more years, like everybody wants me to, that could be me. But when I'm 50 years old, and I'm having trouble just getting down the stairs, will they be cheering for me then?"
Meet Tiki Barber.
He walked, while he still could.