NFL Hall of Famer Forrest Gregg at his Colorado Springs home. (Photo: Arnie Stapleton/AP)
Former Green Bay Packers coach Vince Lombardi once called offensive tackle Forrest Gregg the best player he ever coached. A Hall of Fame player with the Packers and Cowboys for 14 seasons and later a head coach for three NFL teams, Gregg, 79, knows a little something about playing the offensive tackle position.
That’s why reports that the Kansas City Chiefs could make Texas A&M tackle Luke Joeckel or Central Michigan tackle Eric Fisher only the fourth player at the position ever to be selected with the top pick in the NFL draft make Gregg happy.
“I’m glad to see that offensive tackles are being looked at as the number one pick,” Gregg told USA TODAY Sports. “That’s a change but if comes down to protecting the quarterback. That’s the way it should be.”
He points to fellow Hall of Famer Anthony Munoz, who the Cincinnati Bengals drafted with the third overall pick in his first season as the team’s coach in 1980, as an example of what a star player at the position can do for a franchise.
Gregg notes that the style of play along the line has changed over the years, often in an attempt to increase player safety.
“The biggest thing is they took away the head slap defensive linemen used, which was a weapon. How you tackle people has changed,” Gregg said. “Tackling the quarterback – that’s difficult to determine what’s a penalty and what’s not. What they’re trying to do is protect the players from injury. But at the same time don’t do anything that changes the game because people watch the game because of how it is. You don’t want to see anybody get hurt so there had to be some rule changes.”
That evolution is important to Gregg, who was diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease in 2011.
“The doctor thought that football had a lot to do with it,” he said. “His opinion was that it was a cause.”
Gregg told the Associated Press earlier this week that he has no plans to sue the NFL for his condition, instead opting to spend his time trying to educate others about his condition as part of “Parkinson’s More Than Motion” campaign.
“You have no way of predicting something like this,” Gregg said. “I knew I had some problems but didn’t know exactly what it was because it was more than one symptom. It took awhile because I had to decide whether we were going to keep this to ourselves or come out publicly with it. I had a problem one time back in the ’70s with cancer (melanoma) and I went ahead and told people I had it. I think I beneftted from it because there were a lot of other people who had it and I was able to get good medical advice from it. I decided with my wife and two children to go ahead and tell people I had it. I’m glad we did. You realize you’re not out there alone with it.”
Gregg’s symptoms first began with tremors in his left hand and developed to…