Ditka Champions NFL Greats

TAMPA -

Legendary football player and coach Mike Ditka was in Tampa to talk about helping former players who can't get help from the NFL. His organization will hold several fund-raising events in conjunction with the Super Bowl.

Ditka has become the face of Gridiron Greats. He'll be the first to tell you he didn't start the organization that helps destitute and ill former players. But, when he learned how some were barely surviving, he stepped up to get them help.

'They're living in shelters,' Ditka said. 'They've got no food. They can't get medicine. How the hell can this happen? But it happens.'

Ditka estimates 1100 ex-players are suffering from injuries sustained during their NFL careers but only 40 have qualified for NFL disability payments.

Greg Aiello is senior vice president of public relations for the National Football League.

'In any industry, disability benefits have to be managed responsibly and you have to be careful about abuses of the system,' Aiello said. But, he added that the NFL continues to improve its system and is sensitive to the players concerns.

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