Former Pats QB Grogan: ‘It’s hard to forgive’ Tatum

Earlier this week, former NCAA All-American and NFL Pro Bowl safety Jack Tatum died of a heart attack. Perhaps the most controversial moment of Tatum’s career was when he hit New England Patriots wide receiver Darryl Stingley during a preseason game in 1978, leaving the receiver paralyzed from the chest down. Though the hit was legal and no penalty was called on the play, it is widely regarded as a catalyst for the league later changing its rules to better protect receivers.

Steve Grogan was the Patriots’ quarterback at the time, and he joined 98.5 The Sports Hub in Boston with Mike Felger and Tony Massarotti to talk about Tatum, Stingley, and what he thinks of the incident. To listen to the interview, go to Sports Radio Interviews. Responses have been edited for clarity and brevity.

Former New England Patriots quarterback Steve Grogan says it's difficult to forgive Jack Tatum for paralyzing Darryl Stingley.
Former New England Patriots quarterback Steve Grogan says it’s difficult to forgive Jack Tatum for paralyzing Darryl Stingley.

What is Grogan’s reaction to Tatum’s death, and what does he remember about him as a person?

Grogan: I guess it doesn’t surprise me. I read that he’s had some health issues the past several years, in magazines and newspapers. I just got off the phone with somebody at ESPN talking about the same thing, and I was telling him that there’s not too many people that I can’t find something nice to say about when this kind of situation arises. But, unfortunately, Jack Tatum is one guy that I just can’t find anything nice to say about. Just the way he handles the whole situation – it bothers me that I feel that way, but to never apologize to Darryl, to try to make money off the whole situation, never showing any regret or remorse. This is a man who wasn’t a good person.

Does Grogan think the play that paralyzed Stingley was a dirty hit?

Grogan: It was a hit that I probably wouldn’t call dirty, but it was unnecessary. It was a preseason game. It was a ball that I threw late — overthrew, because I did throw late — and was just trying to throw it away. Darryl went up into the air — and normally in a preseason game guys take care of each other in those situations — and Darryl just happened to get caught with his head in the wrong position, and Tatum just blasted him for no obvious reason in a game like that.

I saw hundreds of hits like that before and after, and it’s just unfortunately in Darryl’s situation that it caused paralysis, and in all the other situations the guy got up and continued to play.

What else can he share about Tatum, as a person?

Grogan: I can’t speak to that. I know Darryl was a great guy and I’m sure if Tatum had extended a hand to him and reached across the aisle and tried to at least apologize, Darryl probably would have accepted that. But that never happened, and as far as I know, Darryl resented the fact that Tatum never talked to him… The only time he ever really made contact with him was when he wanted to write a book or do a TV show and make some money off the whole thing.

How did other Raider players and coaches treat Stingley after the incident?

Grogan: From what I understand, Coach [John] Madden was great with Darryl. And I’m sure there were other Raiders players that visited him. I can’t tell you names right now, and in all honesty, you may talk to some of the Raiders of that time and they may tell you that Jack Tatum was a great guy and a great football player. Our experience with him is that he was just not a nice person, and did something to one of our players that could have been avoided, and never showed any remorse for it. And it’s hard to forgive that.

Does Grogan think the NFL has gotten more violent? What does he think about the league’s recent efforts to minimize dangerous play?

Grogan: I think the game can be played very physically without having to take the shots that everyone wants to get on ESPN. Everybody wants to see their hit make the highlights and I think that’s what the game is trying to legislate out of the NFL. Those kinds of hits are just totally unnecessary and cause a lot of damage that, actually, they don’t need. Players are too valuable these days; they’ve got too much money invested in these guys to have them sitting on the sideline. So they’re trying to take better care of that and I agree with that.

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Earlier this week, former NCAA All-American and NFL Pro Bowl safety Jack Tatum died of a heart attack. Perhaps the most controversial moment of Tatum’s career was when he hit New England Patriots wide receiver Darryl Stingley during a preseason game in 1978, leaving the receiver paralyzed from the chest down. Though the hit was legal and no penalty was called on the play, it is widely regarded as a catalyst for the league later changing its rules to better protect receivers.

Steve Grogan was the Patriots’ quarterback at the time, and he joined 98.5 The Sports Hub in Boston with Mike Felger and Tony Massarotti to talk about Tatum, Stingley, and what he thinks of the incident. To listen to the interview, go to Sports Radio Interviews. Responses have been edited for clarity and brevity.

Former New England Patriots quarterback Steve Grogan says it's difficult to forgive Jack Tatum for paralyzing Darryl Stingley.
Former New England Patriots quarterback Steve Grogan says it’s difficult to forgive Jack Tatum for paralyzing Darryl Stingley.

What is Grogan’s reaction to Tatum’s death, and what does he remember about him as a person?

Grogan: I guess it doesn’t surprise me. I read that he’s had some health issues the past several years, in magazines and newspapers. I just got off the phone with somebody at ESPN talking about the same thing, and I was telling him that there’s not too many people that I can’t find something nice to say about when this kind of situation arises. But, unfortunately, Jack Tatum is one guy that I just can’t find anything nice to say about. Just the way he handles the whole situation – it bothers me that I feel that way, but to never apologize to Darryl, to try to make money off the whole situation, never showing any regret or remorse. This is a man who wasn’t a good person.

Does Grogan think the play that paralyzed Stingley was a dirty hit?

Grogan: It was a hit that I probably wouldn’t call dirty, but it was unnecessary. It was a preseason game. It was a ball that I threw late — overthrew, because I did throw late — and was just trying to throw it away. Darryl went up into the air — and normally in a preseason game guys take care of each other in those situations — and Darryl just happened to get caught with his head in the wrong position, and Tatum just blasted him for no obvious reason in a game like that.

I saw hundreds of hits like that before and after, and it’s just unfortunately in Darryl’s situation that it caused paralysis, and in all the other situations the guy got up and continued to play.

What else can he share about Tatum, as a person?

Grogan: I can’t speak to that. I know Darryl was a great guy and I’m sure if Tatum had extended a hand to him and reached across the aisle and tried to at least apologize, Darryl probably would have accepted that. But that never happened, and as far as I know, Darryl resented the fact that Tatum never talked to him… The only time he ever really made contact with him was when he wanted to write a book or do a TV show and make some money off the whole thing.

How did other Raider players and coaches treat Stingley after the incident?

Grogan: From what I understand, Coach [John] Madden was great with Darryl. And I’m sure there were other Raiders players that visited him. I can’t tell you names right now, and in all honesty, you may talk to some of the Raiders of that time and they may tell you that Jack Tatum was a great guy and a great football player. Our experience with him is that he was just not a nice person, and did something to one of our players that could have been avoided, and never showed any remorse for it. And it’s hard to forgive that.

Does Grogan think the NFL has gotten more violent? What does he think about the league’s recent efforts to minimize dangerous play?

Grogan: I think the game can be played very physically without having to take the shots that everyone wants to get on ESPN. Everybody wants to see their hit make the highlights and I think that’s what the game is trying to legislate out of the NFL. Those kinds of hits are just totally unnecessary and cause a lot of damage that, actually, they don’t need. Players are too valuable these days; they’ve got too much money invested in these guys to have them sitting on the sideline. So they’re trying to take better care of that and I agree with that.

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