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Tony Dorsett Isn’t The Only Cowboys Great Struggling

Rayfield Wright speaks for the first time on his battle with dementia.
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Photo via Corbis Images

Tony Dorsett has been fairly open in discussing his declining mental health, not shying away from any embarrassing details. But even though former Cowboys offensive lineman Rayfield Wright, like Dorsett, was part of the massive lawsuit against the NFL over head injuries, he’s never spoken at length about his battle with dementia, because he was “too proud.” Until now.

“You don’t want people to look at you any differently,” he said. “When you’ve been at the top of the N.F.L., you don’t want people to know. You’re supposed to be tough and invincible. So if something’s wrong with you, you try to hide it. Which is exactly what I did.”

Wright, who played in more than 180 regular-season and playoff games from 1967 to 1979, said he incurred concussion after concussion, “so many that I couldn’t even count them.”

At 6 feet 7 inches and 265 pounds today — only 10 pounds more than his playing weight — Wright would still be a commanding presence in the Cowboys’ locker room. But inside his home in this small country town about 20 miles west of Fort Worth, a place he moved to partly so that few others could see his decline, he described what he believed were the effects of his football-related brain trauma.

“Sometimes, I walk into the kitchen and forget why I went there,” he said. “I’ve gotten into several car accidents because of seizures. Totaled two cars. My memory is not good. There’s a big fight within myself.”

Read all of Juliet Macur’s New York Times column.

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