ralph lauren sale Chuck Bednarik’s Hit on Frank Gifford Echoes Today
It’s an anniversary that Frank Gifford does not celebrate. Fifty years ago this weekend, as the Giants’ All Pro running back, he lay crumpled at Yankee Stadium after having fumbled away a pass reception when blindsided by Eagles linebacker Chuck Bednarik late in a 17 10 loss. Unconscious, Gifford was carried off the field on a stretcher and examined. Wrapped in blankets with an ice cold compress above his closed eyes, he was soon rolled on a gurney to an ambulance that hurried him to St. Elizabeth’s Hospital.
The diagnosis was said to be a “deep brain concussion,” and Gifford remained in the hospital for several days. His 1960 season was over. And when he pursued a local television offer rather than return to the Giants in 1961, his football career appeared over.
At the time, it was professional football’s most notorious concussion. Before rejoining the Giants in 1962 for three more seasons, Gifford refrained from contact for about 18 months. That should be a lesson for anyone involved in football’s current vigilance on concussions. At every level, too many players rush or are rushed by coaches, doctors and sometimes by parents to resume playing after a concussion.
As Gifford lay unconscious, Bednarik waved his arms and hopped around in celebration. Spectators and some Giants players thought Bednarik, Philadelphia’s All Pro linebacker/center, was enjoying the scene. championship.
Clean but cruel. In the tackle, Gifford’s head snapped back. He learned decades later that he also sustained what he described as a spinal concussion.
“When I had tingling in my fingers about seven or eight years ago, I had X rays of my neck,” Gifford, 80, said. “The technician asked me if I had ever been in an automobile accident. I told him no, but he said the X rays showed a fracture of a neck vertebra that had healed by itself. After the Bednarik play, they never X rayed my neck. They just X rayed my head.”
Over those 18 months away from football, Gifford’s brain (and apparently his neck) had time to heal. When tested before his 1962 return to the Giants’ training camp, he was cleared to play. During the 1961 season, he scouted the Giants’ coming opponents each week, but he often lined up at practice, impersonating the next opponent.
“There was no contact,” he said. “I was just running plays as a flanker, what is now a wide receiver. When I ran those plays, I often was beating the starting defensive backs. I started to think that I could do this again. I had been out for a year but I thought, what a terrible way to have gone out. And I thought if I don’t do it now, in 1962, I’ll never be able to.”
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Gifford had to convince quarterback Y. A. Tittle that he could do it. Tittle arrived in 1961 from the 49ers.
“Y. A. didn’t know me; he wasn’t throwing to me much,” Gifford said. “But in our third game in Pittsburgh, Y. A. asked if I could beat defensive back Jack Butler on a fly. I dove and caught the pass for a touchdown. From that point on, he trusted me.”
For three seasons, Gifford provided Tittle with a flanker to offset the coverage on split end Del Shofner. championship game to the Green Bay Packers, 16 7, in an icy, swirling wind at Yankee Stadium.
In 1963 the Giants, at 11 3, added another conference title before losing the title game to the Bears, 14 10, in Chicago. After the Giants’ 2 10 2 collapse in 1964, Gifford retired. Over his 12 season Hall of Fame career, he totaled 9,758 all purpose yards, including 14 touchdown passes on the halfback option that Vince Lombardi had installed as offensive coach.
Gifford was a television broadcaster for decades, notably from 1971 to 1998 as the play by play voice on ABC’s “Monday Night Football” booth, often with Don Meredith and Howard Cosell.
“The only other concussion I remember,” Gifford said, “was when I was a defensive back my first or second year with the Giants in the Polo Grounds. I got hit hard and kept playing. I lined up wrong in Tom Landry’s defense for two or three plays until I snapped out of it.”
And now, long after Chuck Bednarik’s blind side tackle, Frank Gifford is trying to assess pro football’s current crackdown on helmet to helmet hits.
“It’s hard to do,” he said. “You have to start in high school to get them to play the right way. And it’s hard on the officials, whether on the field or in the league office, who have to be judge and jury. It’s hard to do.”