The image of Don Majkowski writhing on the turf on Sept. 20, 1992 is part of Green Bay Packers history. Not because anyone wished ill on Majkowski, still popular in Wisconsin for his near-MVP season in 1989, but what happened next.
Brett Favre came in for Majkowski. He threw a last-minute touchdown pass to Kitrick Taylor (one of two catches Taylor ever made for the Packers) and beat the Bengals. Favre started every game at quarterback for Green Bay from then until Aaron Rodgers.
That was the moment the Packers franchise turned from a laughingstock into a regular contender again. It was also the moment Majkowski's body started to take a significant turn for the worse.
Majkowski can trace his 11 ankle surgeries back to that injury. Sadly, that's only part of what ails Majkowski these days, as he told his story to Fox Sports Wisconsin recently.
The story is sad. Stories like the one Majkowski told Fox Sports Wisconsin are horrible and common now among former NFL players. The stories aren't going to stop anytime soon either, not with the players being bigger and faster and the game being more violent than ever.
Majkowski said his foot is locked in place after back-to-back fusion surgeries. The first fusion surgery failed. He can't do normal things at age 49 like golf or coach his eighth-grade son in football. He told the site it's difficult to sit still for even five minutes.
He has other problems. He has a degenerative disk disease in his neck and back and post-concussion syndrome. His career was never the same after a shoulder injury in 1990. He played through his ailments. He talked about playing way ahead of schedule from ankle surgery in 1996 to save his job as a backup quarterback. The NFL paydays are good and no athlete wants their careers to end.
He also talks about the "grueling process" of getting workers compensation, something many former players dealing with pain describe. The story is a great read, examining what happens to players long after we've forgotten about them.
Majkowski said dealing with the physical problems has been a nightmare. He also said something many other players say. Despite all the problems, they say they wouldn't change being a NFL player. That's far from unanimous. Many players also can't stand the constant physical problems as a result of playing in the NFL, and that has made their life a mess. But others, like Majkowski, still cherish their time as pro football players, even if their retirement has been rough.
"I don't regret it," Majkowski said. "That's the sickening part of it. Of course I'd do it all again. It was my childhood dream and I worked extremely hard to achieve that and be in the NFL. It was a privilege and a dream that only a small percentage of guys ever get to do."