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Bear Great Mike Ditka: I'll Be a Dancing Fool for Charity

By    |   Tuesday, 30 Dec 2014 06:40 PM

Mike Ditka will do just about anything for good cause — and that includes flapping his arms and sashaying like he's king of the disco.

The Football Hall of Famer and Super Bowl-winning coach is out to raise $100,000 for his Gridiron Greats Assistance Fund and tells Newsmax TV he'll do the popular Prancercise workout when he reaches that goal.

Prancercise, created by Joanna Rohrback, is a low-impact fitness routine described as "a springy, rhythmic way of moving forward, similar to a horse’s gait and ideally induced by elation."

And Ditka — who is 75 years old and stands at 6-foot-3 — is totally game to gracefully strut his 230-pound frame in front of the TV cameras.

"If you log on to the [Prancercise] video, it's pretty interesting. [Joanna is] an interesting lady and she just has fun with it," Ditka said Tuesday on Newsmax's "The Steve Malzberg Show.

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"She's just prancing around like a little deer or something. But I can do that!"

Ditka said his charity — on the Web at GridironGreats.org —has helped countless former players who've fallen on hard times with medical and financial assistance.

"We've helped a lot of guys. You know people who say, 'they're former players, they should be able to take care of themselves?' Well, they should, but a lot of them don't," Ditka said.

"A lot of them have had hard times and for whatever reason there may be a reason today.

They did something on their own or just fell on hard times, so all we try to do is help them. There's no other reason for it.

"There's a reason to have dignity in your life and some of these guys have fallen to a stage where it's really bad. A lot of it has come from injuries they've had."

Ditka told Malzberg his charity has arranged for hip and knee replacements and have worked with a number of top surgeons who've donated their services.

Then there are those players who have faced possibly the most debilitating injury of all — severe brain damage from concussions on the field, an issue many feel was ignored by the NFL for years.

The concussion thing — we all know what the ramifications of that are," Ditka said.

"We see it today, every day, but when you see guys who had concussions 25, 30 or 40 years ago and you see the state they are in right now, of dementia, it's pretty bad. There's no cure for it.

"It's a problem that I don't know is going to go away. It may get worse. Fortunately, some of these guys make a pretty good buck and they got a pretty good pension. They should be in a lot better shape than the guys who played in my era."

Ditka launched his gridiron career in 1961 as a tight end for the Chicago Bears, before moving to the Philadelphia Eagles and Dallas Cowboys. In 1973, he turned coach for the Cowboys, and later the Bears and New Orleans Saints. He was a Super Bowl champion three times — once as a player with the Cowboys and twice as a coach with the Cowboys and Bears.

And he has plenty to say about today's game, including the University of Michigan's hiring of Jim Harbaugh, who coached the San Francisco 49ers to three straight NFC championship games.

The school hopes Harbaugh — once its star quarterback — can lead the Wolverines back to national prominence. He's being paid more than $35 million over seven years.

"First of all, he's a graduate of the University of Michigan. I drafted him out of there, he played for me and he's a great young man. He's a great coach," Ditka said.

Harbaugh became a free agent after the 49ers missed the playoffs this season and he and the team agreed to a mutual parting of the ways.

"What happened down in San Francisco comes down to egos more than anything else. You don't take your team to the NFL championship game three years and end up getting let go," Ditka said.

"When you fall on hard times with the general manager or whoever it was … it seems silly. Because you got to have everybody on the same page and they weren't on the same page."

"He'll enjoy coaching the college level a little bit more. Coaching pro football right now is not an easy job. You got a lot of egos, a lot of prima donnas, money gets in the way and it's hard to motivate some of these guys. Harbaugh will do a great job in college."

He also has an opinion about Detroit Lions defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh, who was suspended the Lions' wild-card playoff game against the Dallas Cowboys. The suspension came after Suh stepped twice on the injured calf of Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers, the second time which appeared to be deliberate.

"He knows what he did and he's a good football player. The thing is he's such a good football player, he doesn't have to resort to those tactics," Ditka said.

"Unfortunately, he does and he can say he didn't try to hurt him, but he did try to hurt him twice. Aaron Rodgers is such a class act and such a great part of the NFL [that] to try to hurt guys like that, I really don't get it.

"You can cut him some slack and say maybe he didn't, but he knew it because he knew he was standing on his leg and he got off it and he stood on it again."

Last Sunday, New York Giants wide receiver Odell Beckham, in the second quarter of the Giants' loss to the Eagles, ripped off his helmet glared at an official, then stormed off, following a disputed play.

Ditka said he'd tell Beckham:

"The game's not going to be your game forever. You're here for a short time and you're playing a game. Enjoy it.

"Do what you can do and if you respect the game, it will respect you and if you respect your opponent, they will respect you. When you don't respect a game, you're really hurting yourself."

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Mike Ditka will do just about anything for good cause — and that includes flapping his arms and sashaying like he's king of the disco.
mike ditka, charity, football, concussions, nfl
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2014-40-30
Tuesday, 30 Dec 2014 06:40 PM
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