Hall of Fame center Otto has right leg amputated
Posted: Wednesday August 1, 2007 8:08PM;
NAPA, Calif. (AP) -- Hall of Fame center Jim Otto recently had his right leg amputated and is recovering in a hospital in Utah.
Oakland Raiders owner Al Davis made the announcement Wednesday as part of a wide-ranging news conference touching on the state of the team, the recent death of Bill Walsh and pensions for former NFL players.
Otto, 69, has had a litany of health problems. He has had prostate cancer, two major infections that nearly killed him and approximately 40 operations -- mostly on his banged-up knees from playing football.
"It's been, as you know with him, a tremendous fight," Davis said. "He's lived through it now for three years, day in and day out. But it finally came. He fought the amputation. He didn't want it. He fought it. But there was no other thing to do but to amputate."
Otto played with the Raiders from 1960-74 and is currently the team's director of special projects. He organizes reunions for former players and events for fans in the luxury boxes, and makes public appearances for the team.
Otto was a member of the original Raiders of 1960. He played in nine AFL All-Star games and the first three AFC-NFC Pro Bowls.
Davis talked about his relationship with Walsh, who got his start in professional football as an assistant with the Raiders in 1966. That one season Walsh spent in Oakland helped forge a friendship with Davis that endured decades of rivalry while Walsh coached with Cincinnati, San Diego and eventually San Francisco. Davis spent time at Walsh's house last Saturday, just two days before his death following a long battle with leukemia.
Davis said he'd like to start an award in Walsh's honor to be given to quarterbacks in a ceremony held in the Bay Area.
"What he represented to professional football, and what stands out there today, is just unparalleled, whether it be George Halas or Paul Brown, whoever it may be," Davis said. "He did a magnificent job, and we here on the West Coast have to wake up and realize that not everything happens at the Heisman, the Maxwell Award, and all these awards, that are given back East to great contemporaries and great people."
Davis also backed the fight by former players to have increased pensions and disability payments. In June, a group of former players testified in Congress about their bouts with multiple surgeries, dementia and homelessness, all while trying to fight through the red tape of the National Football League and the NFL Players Association's disability system.
NFL commissioner Roger Goodell and players' union head Gene Upshaw met with nearly a dozen former players last month to discuss a new joint effort to look into disability pay and health care for retirees.
"It's not fair to have the National Football League as someone who didn't take care of theirs when we should take care of our own," Davis said. "I strongly believe that.