Matt Millen, health failing, takes unflinching stock of his life and times

News of Matt Millens illness he suffers from amyloidosis broke last month. He was being treated with chemotherapy. He knew he needed a heart transplant.

In the past few weeks things have gotten worse.

Were in the fourth quarter of a big football game, he told Peter King of Sports Illustrated, who visited Millen recently at his Durham, Pennsylvania, farm. Were down 13. Playing defense. Its getting late. We need a stop. We need a big stop.

Dont confuse that with the corny scene in The Pride of the Yankees, in which Gary Cooper, as Lou Gehrig, asks his doctor, Is it three strikes, Doc?


King reported that after his big stop line, Millen, who won Super Bowls with the Raiders, 49ers and Redskins, laughed.

He is not impressed with his own mortality, King wrote, nor does he have the slightest problem discussing it.

That wouldnt surprise anyone who was in Millens orbit during his playing career. He was a hale fellow well met friendly, glib, honest, expressive.

After the 49ers victory in the Super Bowl after the 1989 season, he told reporters, I told Joe Montana I was proud of him. I dont say that very often, but I was proud of him.

If a positive attitude has anything to do with it, Millen has a fighting chance against this awful disease. But his chemo treatments are, in Kings words, debilitating. Millen, 60, has that pale-faced look you sometimes see in people deep into chemotherapy.

The new heart? He has yet to be placed on a transplant list.

Millen is realistic. He understands he suffered from amyloidosis that raged undiagnosed for years because the disease mimics other diseases. By the time it was discovered the damage was done.

If you parse his comments to King, you sense a reckoning, a man taking unflinching stock of his life and times.

His disastrous years as president/GM of the Detroit Lions, for example.

Really, when I take my steps back, I was not ready at all, he said. Not even close. I was in over my head. And by the time I figured it out, it wasnt necessarily too late, but we were in pretty deep.

In a five-year period he had five draft picks in the top 10. Four times he drafted wide receivers.

The one that killed me was Mike Williams, he said. That was just so stupid. Its like my brain fell off my head. Why would I do that? My son was in the draft room with us, and thats when my son punched me. What a dope I was.

Had any Why me? moments, King said he asked Millen.

Never, Millen told him. I dont think like that. This doesnt bother me too much. I believe that in life youre supposed to take the bad with the good. It was the same thing when I was playing. We were fortunate to win Super Bowls. There are guys who go through their whole career, great players, who dont win one. You just cant figure those things sometimes. So you get what you get. Im OK with that.

Im also OK if I dont wake up one day. Yeah, Id like to kick around a little longer, but if doesnt happen, it doesnt happen. Some of it is just being pragmatic. Ive always been that way.