Battling ALS, Kevin Turner Stays Positive, Agrees With Rule Changes

Battling ALS, Kevin Turner Stays Positive, Agrees With Rule Changes

Back in 2010, we learned former Eagles fullback Kevin Turner had been diagnosed with ALS, also known as Lou Gehrig's Disease. FoxSports.com's Lisa Horne caught up with Turner at his home in Alabama, where he admits his body's deterioration has been frustrating, though he remains surprisingly upbeat.

The story paints a uneasy portrait of a 42-year-old man who was once a world-class athlete, but now needs help with some everyday tasks. However, it's not without its revelations. Turner discusses the possibility he has CTE, or chronic traumatic encephalopathy, a disease that is caused by repeated trauma to the brain over a long period of time -- and that it could even be the root cause of his ALS symptoms.

Turner was a punishing blocker and ball carrier for eight seasons in the NFL, five of those with Philadelphia, but he defends the league's recent rule changes aimed at protecting players from serious, long-term injuries. The new kickoff and defenseless receiver rules may irritate some fans, and coaches may not appreciate new rules limiting contact during practice, but Turner insists these changes are for the best.

"There's no way to go through practice and halfway do it playing fullback when you're blocking at full speed," Turner sayd.

Turner realizes a lot of football fans aren't happy with some rules designed to safeguard the players.

"It's nothing like flag football," Turner said. "They don't get it. I would think they would want to watch their favorite players or teams for years to come. You can hit someone who isn't looking and practically decapitate them. It's entertainment to them.

"There are big-time collisions. Let's not take a step back to the Roman era where we're putting football players up there with gladiators. It's a game. It's entertainment. It's a dream of theirs, like it was of mine, but it's not worth their living that last 20 years of their lives with dementia, Alzheimer's or ALS."

It's hard to argue with his stance. As awareness of the lasting impacts of these collisions increases, we've seen far too many examples of athletes whose quality of life became sub-standard much sooner than it has any right to be. The preeminent example in Philadelphia is former Eagles safety Andre Waters, who killed himself in 2006 -- apparently while suffering from CTE.

Thankfully, Turner doesn't sound like a man who will be taking his own life. The silver lining is he manages to remain positive.

"(I'm) grateful for the Alabama fans that have supported me throughout this ordeal — they've just been incredible to me," Turner says. "I feel blessed. I'm able to walk, talk and breathe."

Go read the story and catch up with a classic Eagles fullback.

>> ALS or victim of violent sport? [FOX Sports]
>> Did Andre Waters Die for Our Entertainment? [T7L]

Up from 217 to 250, Ben Simmons also stronger mentally from work with LeBron

Up from 217 to 250, Ben Simmons also stronger mentally from work with LeBron

CAMDEN, N.J. — It appears Ben Simmons took the saying about having the weight of the world on your shoulders a tad literal.

The Sixers' No. 1 overall pick walked into the team's sparkling new training complex for media day sporting a much bigger frame than when his name was called on draft night.

"I'm a lot stronger. When I started getting ready for the draft I was about 217 [pounds] and now I'm around 250," Simmons said Monday.

When you're expected to be the centerpiece of an organization that managed just 10 wins a season ago, it helps to have that extra bulk to carry those expectations. 

But Simmons isn’t just being looked at as a key to help change the franchise’s fortunes. He’s also being viewed as perhaps a once-in-a-generation talent after drawing several comparisons to LeBron James, who Simmons shares an agent with in Klutch Sports Group.

So how did the incoming rookie deal with being likened to four-time MVP and three-time NBA champion James? He went to work like someone trying to achieve those same goals.

“Just being around him and learning from his habits and what he does has just helped me overall,” Simmons said of working out with James and other NBA stars during the summer. “He’ll be one of the first guys in the gym every day. It doesn’t matter what day it is. He’s one of those guys who gets the work in and enjoys the rest of his day. Just learning from him I think I can take a lot from what he’s done. ... He’s done a lot for me. He’s helped me experience things I need to learn.

“They get in the gym and work. It’s one of those things where they don’t play around. They get straight to it. Obviously in the weight room too. LeBron loves the VersaClimber and they also brought two more in here. I’m starting to learn from what these guys do, D-Wade (Dwyane Wade) also. They’re all doing the same thing, working out every day and getting ready.”

That type of work ethic will go a long way toward Simmons' earning the respect of his Sixers teammates. The group was already eager to get on the floor with him for training camp at Stockton University and get a firsthand look at the versatile forward, especially his prowess as a passer.

“The most exciting thing that I’ve seen was his passing ability,” Jahlil Okafor said of Simmons. “That’s going to help me out a lot. He’s selfless. Being with the summer league guys he was always about the team. I’ve always considered myself a good teammate and he’s a great one as well. I’m excited to work with him.”

“I think for anybody who likes to shoot or likes to score, whenever you can have a big man who is a really good ball handler, can make good decisions, has great vision, it’s always a great thing,” Gerald Henderson said. “If you can be aggressive on the offensive end you don’t always have to have the basketball to be able to be right there and score. You have somebody that can find you and really is thinking pass-first. I think it’ll be great, not only for us but just our offense in general.”

Considering that the Sixers finished 29th in scoring a season ago, Simmons knows they will need him to be more than just a facilitator. The team needs consistent scoring from everyone on the court. And while the LSU product’s jump shot was questioned during his lone year in college, he believes he has worked hard to silence those doubts.

“I usually try to take what they give me. Obviously I’ve been working on my shot a lot with all the coaches,” Simmons said. “I can shoot the ball. I’m not really worried about that. Coming into training camp, it’s one of the things I’ve been working on since LSU.”

Simmons made it clear several times that he is confident in his offensive game and that the Sixers’ logjam in the frontcourt will work itself out on the floor. One thing he’s not so sure about: that he’s even in this position.

Despite dreaming about being in the NBA since he was a kid in Australia and being groomed to be the No. 1 overall pick for years, Simmons said it’s still a bit of a surprise to be at this point.

“I think it’s still surreal for me,” he said. “I think it’ll finally hit me once I step on the court matched up against OKC the first game.”

There were Carson Wentz and Ben Simmons fans at the debate last night

There were Carson Wentz and Ben Simmons fans at the debate last night

I'm not sure if they could win nationally, but there is absolutely no doubt that a Wentz-Simmons ticket would dominate the Delaware Valley.

An intrepid Philadelphia sports fan was up at the Presidential Debate last night at Hofstra University and made a sign showing his support... for the Eagles and Sixers.

I don't know though, I'm pretty sure Simmons was born in Australia.