“Now I Fill Up My Phone With Notes And Say It Out Loud” | Pro Football Hall of Famer Warren Sapp Admits He’s Living With CTE

(Photo by Mark Brown/Getty Images)

When you think Tampa Bay Buccaneers football, the first name that should come to mind better not be Tom Brady. Before Brady arrived in Tampa Bay, the Bucs had a tradition of winning led by Pro Football Hall of Famer Warren Sapp, whose leadership under head coach Tony Dungy changed the culture in the Bucs franchise during the late 1990s and early 2000s.

Sapp was the immovable force that offenses had no answer for up front, and his play dictated one of the most dominant “Tampa 2” defensive schemes we’ve ever witnessed. But for all of the glory that Sapp experienced, the flip side is a very common challenge that retired football players are facing: post-football ailments that attack the brain and get increasingly worse with age. 

He’s not the first former player to admit that his brain is scrambled, and his health is going downhill fast.

In a recent phone interview, the loquacious Sapp revealed to Rich Stroud of the Tampa Bay Times that he forgot the directions to a friend’s house in Miami and couldn’t remember where it was located. 

“I wish you could’ve been there and looked into my eyes because it was the scariest thing. I can rip and run on every road in this city and do whatever I want to do. I’m telling you, it was the scariest moment of my life.

“Scared me so much, I turned around and went home. I turned that car around, got home on my couch, turned the TV on and just sat there. I didn’t know what that was, but it didn’t feel good.

“I sat there for the rest of the day almost in tears.”

Unfortunately, Sapp’s story has become all too familiar with former NFL players. CTE is a problem and no matter how much the league tries to cover it up or shrug it off as not as big an issue, the more prevalent it seems to become.

Sapp Says He Jots Things Down So He Won’t Forget

Following this scare Sapp says he became a bit paranoid about not remembering things. In an effort to make sure that didn’t happen Sapp told Stroud that he writes more than he ever has. It helps him retain information he may now forget.

“Now I fill up my phone with notes and say it out loud. You’ve got to. You’ve got to prepare yourself for the possibility you’re going to forget.”

That has to be scary to go from being able to remember things with ease to all of a sudden having alarming lapses in memory and concentration. You feel for Sapp and so many others who gave their all in between the lines and are now battling this debilitating disease.

Sapp Wants To Be Proactive In Helping Against CTE

While no living person can be diagnosed with CTE, all of the signs are there, and Sapp is sure he has it. The 13-year veteran wants to do all he can to help make the game safer and protect today’s players better. According to a NY Times report, players with CTE doubled risk with every 5.3 years in football. The brain disease has also been found in children as young as junior high school age. 

“This is the thing. We can’t diagnose it. But I’ve got 19 years, from high school to pros of playoff football.”

Sapp also said, “Time waits for nobody.”

In Sapp’s case and many others, the hope is they can still manage life as best as possible as their memory and brain battle daily to stay intact. Besides the direct effects of the disease on the brain, battling with CTE also leads to social withdrawal, loss of drive, depression and other mental illnesses. And it’s hard to get treatment for an epidemic that the NFL continues to deny is happening at the rate it’s happening.