NFL Widow Urges Players To Give

Former NFL player Dan Turk was criticized for botching a snap on a failed field goal attempt almost eight year ago during the playoffs, but he had cancer at the time and his wife struggled to get a correct diagnosis and disability payments thereafter. On Tuesday, Peggy Turk joined current and former Vikings to urge the NFL to change its policies for "dire need" alumni.

Peggy Turk sat silently in the front row at a press conference on Tuesday until it was her turn to speak.

Among those in the Minneapolis audience were current and former NFL players Mike Ditka, Kyle Turley, Matt Birk, Steve Hutchinson, Ben Leber, Ryan Cook, Anthony Herrera, Marcus Johnson, Ed Marinaro, Paul Krause, Jim Marshall, Chuck Foreman and a contingent of media.

After being introduced, Turk rose to her feet, accompanied by a pink binder full of data, walked a few steps to the podium and said she had prepared a speech for this day. This was the day she was supposed to read her speech as part of Gridiron Greats' efforts to implore current NFL players to donate money to the cause of helping NFL alumni who are suffering serious health issues without the benefit of disability payments. It was also an effort to get the NFL and the NFL Players Association to change their policies regarding the distribution of disability payments.

However, in a change of plans, Peggy Turk didn't believe she would be best served by reading her speech.

She was right. All that the NFL widow needed was to speak from her heart. She wiped away the tears. She pushed through the shaky voice. And she told the story of her late husband Dan Turk, the former Pittsburgh Steeler, Tampa Bay Buccaneer and Los Angeles-Oakland Raider.

But Turk is also a former Washington Redskin. That is the team he was employed by during his most infamous moment. In Washington's 14-13 playoff loss to Tampa Bay following the 1999 season, Turk one-hopped a deep snap on a missed field goal attempt that was widely blamed as being the play that lost the postseason game for the Redskins.

In the 14 months that followed, Peggy Turk lost her husband, lost her insurance and lost a lot of respect for the way some in the NFL operate.

On Dec. 18, 1999, Dan was diagnosed by the Redskins as having bronchitis and a respiratory infection, Peggy said. A little more than a month later, he was snapping for that failed 51-yard field goal attempt. Four months later, he was diagnosed with cancer.

"His last game played, he had a bad snap and it caused the Redskins to lose the game and that's pretty much what my daughter hears from her friends at school daily, that her dad lost a game for his team," Peggy said with tears streaming down her face. "However, what they don't know is that at that time, he had a tumor the size of a softball inside both lungs and his heart and he should never have been on that field."

The snap occurred on Jan. 25, 2000. He was diagnosed with cancer, not bronchitis, in April, and spent the remaining eight months of his life battling the NFL and NFL Players Association for help. In order to receive any assistance, Peggy was required to get Dan out of bed and drive him and his oxygen tanks to an NFL-approved doctor 45 minutes away to see if he could qualify for disability benefits.

"What they put him through was awful," Peggy said.

While receiving chemotherapy in an Indianapolis hospital bed during his first training camp as a former player, the Turks turned on ESPN and saw a report in which Redskins owner Daniel Snyder was being interviewed about the bad snap. Peggy full expected Snyder to take that opportunity to inform the public of Dan Turk's life-threatening illness.

"Instead, he basically said we've released Danny, we've got somebody and we're not going to have that problem again," Peggy said. "That's his legacy and that's what he'll be remembered for and that is not right. He was a good man and he deserved better than that. He deserved to at least not have to get out of bed on his deathbed and go see a doctor."

Just over two months after Dan's death on Christmas Eve 2000, Peggy said the insurance for herself and her daughter was cancelled and she was instructed to overnight nearly $1,200 for insurance coverage that had been paid since Dan's death.

Peggy Turk was part of a press conference held Tuesday to bring awareness to the plight of some NFL alumni and the disability benefits some of them do not receive from the NFL and NFLPA despite trying circumstances.

Turk's story was one of a number of tales relayed about former players who are now struggling with the effects suffered from concussions or other injuries incurred during their playing days.

Peggy said she was able to afford the medications and treatment needed because Dan's treatment was so close to his playing days. For other NFL alumni, that isn't always the case.

"This is not only an issue for retired players, but active players, so I'm urging players out there to donate money on Dan's behalf. In Dan's honor, I'm donating $10,000 today to the (Gridiron Greats) fund because I know that these guys need it," Peggy said. "We were lucky enough where Dan was still playing and I was able to come up with $12,000 for prescriptions before I could get reimbursed eight months later. We were able to do that and I know a lot of players aren't. I want players to know that this could be you."

Jennifer Smith, the executive assistant for Gridiron Greats, said there is a Kansas City Chief that retired in 2003 and is partially paralyzed but can't receive disability payments unless he flies across the country to an NFL-approved doctor, the same thing that Peggy struggled with during Dan Turk's treatment.

"He can't get on a plane, nor does he have the money to," Smith said of the former Chief. "That's why we're here."

"This could be you at any time and this could be your wife and your children and it needs to be stopped," an emotional Peggy Turk said in a message intended for current players. "It can be changed and the NFL has the money. It can be fixed, they just need to care."

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