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DETROIT, Mich. - Friends of Alex Karras say the former Lions great suffered kidney failure in the last two weeks and has been given only a few days to live.
Tom McInerney, owner of McInerney's Woodhaven Chrysler Dodge Jeep Ram and a friend of Karras' since the 1950s, said Karras' wife, Susan Clark, told him of her husband's failing health in a 15-minute phone call Monday morning.
“I got a call from Susan last Wednesday or Thursday that he was in the hospital,” McInerney said. “(His kidneys) gave out on him and legs swelled up and his ankles swelled up and arms, so she said it doesn't look good. They figured probably a couple weeks.
“He said, ‘I want to go home,' so knowing Alex she made arrangements for him. She talked to me Saturday morning waiting for the ambulance to take him home with her daughter and she was going to let me know. Well, I couldn't get in touch with her yesterday or Saturday and she called me this morning, said, ‘It doesn't look too good, Tommy. They're talking probably a couple days.'
“She said if you came out here it wouldn't be worth his while because right now he's talking about he wants to see his (deceased) mother and dad, and he's on morphine, he's on oxygen. She said it's maybe a couple, three days at the most.”
The 77-year-old Karras has suffered from a variety of health problems in recent years, including dementia and cancer, and is part of the mass concussion lawsuit more than 3,000 former players have filed against the NFL.
Catherine Lincoln, general manager of Clark Karras Properties, said Karras was released from Saint John's Health Center in Santa Monica, Calif., over the weekend and is currently at his California home on hospice care.
His sons George and Alex Jr., and daughter Katie, are by his side, and another son Peter is en route to California.
“He is, as Susan said to me, in transition,” Lincoln said. “Certainly all prayers and good wishes are appreciated.”
Karras played defensive tackle for the Lions from 1958-70 and followed with a successful acting career. He starred as Mongo in the movie “Blazing Saddles” and in the 1980s sitcom “Webster,” where Clark was his TV wife.
“If there's a miracle out there you have to call upon it,” said Hall-of-Fame linebacker Joe Schmidt, Karras' former teammate with the Lions. “It's one of those things I've gone through with quite a few guys I played with have passed. It's like losing a brother or a loved one because you've had so much contact with them and knowing their families and knowing their kids, knowing all the emotional things that happen in football, it's difficult to explain to people.”
Lions president Tom Lewand released this statement Monday night:
“The entire Detroit Lions family is deeply saddened to learn of the news regarding the condition of one of our all-time greats, Alex Karras. Perhaps no player in Lions history attained as much success and notoriety for what he did after his playing days as did Alex.
“We know Alex first and foremost as one of the cornerstones to our Fearsome Foursome defensive line of the 1960s and also as one of the greatest defensive linemen to ever play in the NFL. Many others across the country came to know Alex as an accomplished actor and as an announcer during the early years of Monday Night Football.
“We join his legions of fans from both sports and entertainment in prayer and support for Alex, his wife Susan, and his entire family during this most difficult time.”