CHICAGO (AP) — Former Chicago Bears linebacker Doug Buffone, whose reputation for being a passionate football player carried over into his career as a sports broadcaster, was found dead Monday in his home, according to police.
Paramedics and police were summoned to Buffone's home on Chicago's West Side and found a 70-year-old man dead due to natural causes, said police spokesman Thomas Sweeney. The man was later identified as Buffone, who played 14 seasons for the Bears.
Buffone retired after the 1979 season with 24 career interceptions, the most for any Bears linebacker. He also held the team's record for most games played with 186.
"Today is a sad day for Bears nation," said former Bears linebacker Brian Urlacher, who like Buffone played his entire career with the team. "We lost one of our greats. Doug Buffone will be missed."
A native of Yatesboro, Pennsylvania, Buffone was a fourth-round draft pick by the Bears in 1966 out of Louisville.
In addition to the 24 interceptions, Buffone had 10 fumble recoveries, nine forced fumbles and 37 sacks. He had 1,257 tackles, going over the 100 tackle mark in seven seasons.
Bears chairman George McCaskey noted that Buffone's relationship with the team's fans continued beyond his playing days.
"It drove him nuts when we didn't play well and we always appreciated that he wore his heart on his sleeve because we knew how much he cares," McCaskey said in a statement.
Former Bears coach Mike Ditka said Buffone had a lot of passion for the team, adding he has "nothing but great memories about him."
In a statement, Hall of Famer Dick Butkus, who played alongside Buffone on the Bears for seven years, said a "great man" was lost.
"I will always remember him for his football talent, sense of humor and enduring friendship," Butkus said. "He was a very special guy."
Buffone in recent years hosted a Bears postgame radio show on WSCR-AM with former teammate Ed O'Bradovich.
"His was a life really well lived," WSCR-AM broadcaster Dan Bernstein said. "He understood how important it was to go out of your way to appreciate your family and the good things that you have."
Bernstein said he has encountered former football players who were bitter about what they had to sacrifice.
"That bitterness never, ever was there with Doug ever," he said.