Colts Legend John Mackey Dies of Dementia at 69
Tight end changed game on and off the field
By Rob Quinn,  Newser Staff
Posted Jul 8, 2011 3:35 AM CDT
John Mackey, a Hall of Fame tight end for Baltimore and San Diego and former president of the NFL Players Association is introduced to the crowd during Hall of Fame Enshrinement ceremonies in 2007.   (AP Photo/The Repository, Scott Heckel)
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(Newser) – Former Baltimore Colt John Mackey, one of football's great tight ends and one of the fiercest advocates for the rights of NFL players, has died from dementia at the age of 69. Mackey, who revolutionized his position during his playing days, won better pensions and benefits for players as head of the NFL Players Association in the early '70s. "All of the benefits of today's players come from the foundation laid by John Mackey," Baltimore Ravens general manager Ozzie Newsome tells the Baltimore Sun. "He took risks. He stepped out. He was willing to be different."

After Mackey became ill and the cost of his care exceeded his pension, the league initially resisted paying disability income, claiming there was no link between football and brain injuries, reports the Los Angeles Times. The former No. 88's struggles led to the creation of the "88 Plan" to aid former players suffering from dementia or Alzheimer's. Even in death, Mackey will be helping sportsmen: He is among scores of retired players who pledged to donate their brains to a Boston University program studying sports brain injuries.
 

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