Nearly one year ago, legendary 49ers wide receiver Dwight Clark announced he had been diagnosed with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS).
In his statement last year to announce his diagnosis, Clark said he suspected football caused his condition. But Clark said he does not harbor any bitterness toward the NFL.
On the 49ers Insider Podcast, Clark said his dealings with the league have gone smoothly in receiving compensation as part of the billion-dollar concussion settlement. He said he only wishes the NFL had acted more swiftly in dealing with player safety issues.
“I wasn’t even involved in the lawsuit because, in my mind, I chose to play,” said Clark, 61, in an interview at his house in Capitola. “I knew there would be some ramifications. . . . I didn’t even think about it being brain trauma that would kill you.
“Apparently, somebody in the league had reports that was the case. That’s when I said, ‘Well, if they knew, they should’ve told us.’ That’s my only knock on the league. They should’ve started safety stuff way long ago.”
Clark played for the 49ers from 1979 to 1987, and is responsible for the most iconic play in franchise history. “The Catch” – his leaping touchdown grab of a Joe Montana pass – in the NFC Championship game against the Dallas Cowboys on Jan. 10, 1982, lifted the 49ers to their first Super Bowl.
Clark said he sustained three bad concussions in his career. Once, he lost his vision. Another time, he did not know where he was. And after another concussion, he was disoriented and went to the opposition’s sideline.
“Who knows how many times you get your bell rung,” Clark said. “Mike Wilson was better than I was, and John Taylor was better than I was, so I couldn’t come out of the game. Guys would take my job. So you just kind of shake it off. Plus, back then, that was just football. You get dinged and you go back in or you stay in.”
As part of the NFL’s concussion injury litigation settlement, more than $275 million has been paid to 240 individuals, according to the program’s official website.
Clark stands by his initial statement from March 19, 2017, that he believes playing football caused ALS.
“I’m not a scientist or a doctor, but I don’t know how it could not have some effect with all these guys who have it,” Clark said. “And the league recognizes ALS, Alzheimer’s, dementia and Parkinson’s as diseases that they pay immediately.
"You give them the documentation that you have that stuff, and they give you a big check.”