Alex Karras Dead At 77; Wife Susan Clark Blames Struggles On Physical Beating As Football Player

By Melissa Siegel, Posted: 10/10/12 12:15PM EDT

Former Detroit Lions defensive tackle and Hollywood actor Alex Karras died Wednesday at the age of 77 after fighting cancer, kidney disease, heart disease and dementia over the last several seasons.

But Karras' wife, fellow actor Susan Clark, feels Karras' first career as a football player may have contributed to his recent health struggles.

"This physical beating that he took as a football player has impacted his life, and therefore it has impacted his family life,'' Clark said earlier this year, according to the Associated Press. ''He is interested in making the game of football safer and hoping that other families of retired players will have a healthier and happier retirement.''

The tackle was diagnosed with dementia around seven years ago after dealing with symptoms for around 12 years. Susan Clark has said previously that her husband could no longer drive or remember some of his favorite recipes.

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Karras was one of the NFL players suing the league for its treatment of head injuries. The former athletes have argued that the NFL did not reveal to players the potential long-term consequences of head trauma, according to Sporting News. As of mid-August, there were 135 separate cases involving over 3,400 NFL players.

Karras played defensive tackle for the Lions from 1958-70 before embarking on an acting career, according to the Detroit Free Press. He was a four-time Pro Bowler who was also named to the 1960s All-Decade team.

 After he retired, he spent three years calling Monday Night football games with Howard Cosell and Frank Gifford.

He then embarked on a long acting career that included a role as Mongo in the comedy western Blazing Saddles. He also appeared in the televisions shows "MASH" and "Arli$$" and acted alongside his wife again in the 1982 comedy film "Porky's."

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