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 OVERLAND PARK, Kan. (AP) -Kyle Turley rose from his seat, paused briefly, almost imperceptibly as his chest heaved in a deep breath.
Bathed in glaring white lights, he moved behind the microphone and placed both hands on the sides of the podium, bracing himself against emotion. After quickly thanking everyone, Turley paused again. Nearly 30 seconds went by as he stood in front of the group, lower lip quivering, eyes filling with tears.
``This an emotional subject to me,'' Turley said, sniffling and dabbing the corner of his eye.
A passionate player the past 10 seasons with New Orleans, St. Louis and Kansas City, Turley has channeled his emotions toward helping those who came before him, the less fortunate former players who don't have the financial means to handle the physical problems that come from years of playing such a physical sport.
Best-known for ripping off the helmet of an opposing player and tossing it across the field, Turley hopes to leave a more indelible mark by raising money for retired players in dire need of assistance. To that end, he's donating $25,000 of his check from Sunday's game at Detroit.
Speaking in front of a group of former players at a restaurant owned by former Chiefs defensive end Neil Smith, Turley gave an impassioned 15-minute speech on Tuesday, breaking down numerous times, leaving those in attendance in silence as his words resonated through the room.
``I'm not afraid to stand here, in front of the Kansas City public, in front of my peers, and shed a tear, because I'm tired of hearing these stories,'' he said.
Through Turley, those stories are getting a broader voice.
Twice in the past few weeks, the Chiefs offensive lineman has sent letters to NFL players, asking them to donate at least part of their checks from Sunday's games to the Gridiron Greats, a nonprofit organization that provides medical aid and social services to retired NFL players.
Turley has received commitments from around the league, including teammates Tony Gonzalez, Larry Johnson and Ty Law, and hopes to get hundreds more. All donations go directly into a fund to help down-and-out former NFL players by setting them up with accounts at doctors offices and pharmacies, and providing social services.
``What a wonderful time of the year to have a little humanity in your soul and to make an impact on some lives that are pretty damn difficult right now,'' said former NFL player Jerry Kramer, founder of Gridiron Greats. ``This problem is much, much bigger than anyone wants to admit.''
More than a dozen former players attended Tuesday's news conference, some of them stooped over or limping as they shuffled across the floor.
Hall of Famer Len Dawson, the famously-ornery Conrad Dobler and numerous ex-Chiefs players were there, representing those former players who have fallen on hard times, some of them homeless or in need of expensive surgeries.
Former players have been frustrated by the NFL Players Association, in part because the union's primary focus is on the well-being of current players, leading to some heated exchanges between the two sides.
The NFL recently made some concessions by updating its disability plan for former players, clearing away some of the red tape.
A nice start, but Turley and the former players at Tuesday's news conference believe it only sprinkles topsoil over a much deeper hole.
The significance of Turley's plea is that it comes from an active player, putting a current face on an old problem.
``It's the most important thing, the idea that we don't sound like a bunch of old, disgruntled crippled players that are (angry) at the world, that we're just (complaining) about this because of the millions of dollars they're making,'' said Dobler, who has needed financial assistance with some of his disabilities. ``What he's doing by stepping forward is creating this awareness, letting people know that we have to take care of these players so we can be taken care of in the future ourselves.''
Turley started his grassroots campaign by getting a glimpse of his own future.
Struggling with a debilitating back injury, Turley decided to retire after being released by the Rams in 2005. As he went through the process, which included filing for disability, he realized the system was flawed.
His disability denied, Turley decided to continue playing and began researching the issue. That's when he contacted Gridiron Greats.
``I realized this is a really bad problem, a corrupt system, a system set in place to deny people, not give the necessary aid that needs to be given,'' said Turley, who's retiring after this season. `` ... I see these situations people are in and I had to do something.''
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