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Concrete Charlie Hopes Birds Lose

PHILADELPHIA – Chuck Bednarik holds a grudge only slightly larger than his legacy as the last of the 60-minute men.

Known for his hard-nosed play and big hits, Bednarik is just as well-known for his biting, blunt diatribes about today’s NFL, Philadelphia Eagles owner Jeffrey Lurie and any other topic that reminds him the game isn’t the same as when he played. He also is protective of his Hall of Fame legacy. While he boasts about playing both center and linebacker for part of his 14-year career, Bednarik is equally as proud to have played on the last Eagles team to win a championship (1960).

That’s why Bednarik will be rooting against the Eagles in the Super Bowl against New England. He has no desire to ever see the franchise win another title.

“I can’t wait until the Super Bowl is over,” said Bednarik, who played for the Eagles from 1949 to 1962. “I hope the 1960 team remains the last one to win. I hope it stays that way.”

Bednarik admits he’s jealous and resentful about the salaries and spotlight today’s players receive, calling them “overpaid and underplayed.” Bednarik says he never made more than $27,000 and supplemented his income with an afternoon job selling concrete, earning him the nickname “Concrete Charlie.”

Imagine the multimillion dollar endorsement deals and magazine covers for a 60-minute player today. Forget working for a concrete company. He could probably own one. Or five.

“How would you feel sitting there knowing what transpired when I played?” said Bednarik, who lives in Coopersburg, Pa., and turns 80 in May.

Maybe Bednarik would keep his sentiments to himself if not for a dispute with the only team he ever played for.

Bednarik’s acrimony stems from a 1996 visit with Lurie when he asked the Eagles owner to buy 100 copies of his book at $15 a pop, a total of $1,500, or “tip money,” as the Hall of Famer described it.

Bednarik wanted Lurie to give the books to the team. He says Lurie refused because the Eagles aren’t allowed to give the team gifts.

Bednarik has since distanced himself from the Eagles, only reluctantly showing up for a reunion because the organization surprised him by agreeing to his demand for a limousine. Bednarik still watches football and likes Eagles coach Andy Reid because his stoic demeanor reminds him of Buck Shaw, the coach of the 1960 team.

“Andy’s just a nice person,” Bednarik said. “When he first came here, he wanted to meet me.”

Appropriately, a man who worked in concrete forever cemented his stature as one of the legendary Eagles with two of the most celebrated hits in team history in 1960.

He knocked out New York’s Frank Gifford with a blow so ferocious – and legal – that the Giants running back suffered a concussion and didn’t play again until 1962. Then there was Bednarik’s game-saving tackle of Green Bay’s Jim Taylor on the final play of the ’60 title game.

Bednarik refused to let Taylor up as the final seconds ticked off, allowing the Eagles to hang on for a 17-13 championship win on Dec. 26, 1960, in Franklin Field.

“Everybody reminds me of it and I’m happy they remind me of it,” Bednarik said. “I’m proud and delighted to have played in that game.”

Bednarik recalled playing on all but two kickoffs against the Packers. He said he could have kept playing if he needed to, unlike today’s players who “suck air after five plays.”

In 1996, Deion Sanders played regularly on both offense and defense for the Cowboys, becoming the NFL’s first two-way starter since Bednarik in 1962. Bednarik was not impressed.

“The positions I played, every play, I was making contact, not like that … Deion Sanders,” Bednarik said. “He couldn’t tackle my wife. He’s back there dancing out there instead of hitting.”

No topic is off limits for Bednarik, not even the crazed Eagles fans who paint their faces, sing the fight song and camp out early for the perfect tailgate spot on home games.

“The fans were for us, but these people are nuts,” he said. “It wasn’t like that then. Nobody would get there at 6 a.m. and wait and do all that. … No way. To me, they’re nuts.”

Some would say the same thing about Bednarik.

Tommy McDonald, a Hall of Fame receiver who played with Bednarik from 1957-62, remains an avid Eagles supporter (he offered to suit up if Terrell Owens can’t go) and has grown tired of Bednarik’s act.

“I don’t know how many times I’ve said, ‘C’mon, Chuck. Get over it.’ He won’t let it go,” McDonald said.

While McDonald says he recently rejected an offer to sell his championship ring for $5,000, Bednarik pawned the same ring and his Hall of Fame ring for needed cash.

“I’m not struggling, but I’m not that well off,” Bednarik said. “I have my wedding ring. I don’t need to wear nothing else. It paid for some of my income tax. I never had a child go to school here and my school tax is $5,116. School tax!”

Bednarik receives a football pension check, but, not surprisingly, he said it isn’t enough.

“It stinks,” Bednarik said. “It’s nothing.”

The winning players in Sunday’s Super Bowl will get a bonus that is more than Bednarik ever made in a season. He just hopes the Eagles won’t be the ones cashing those checks.

“They can root for ’em, but I want us to be the last champions,” he said.


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