Former NFL quarterback Jim McMahon, 53, is suffering from early-stage… (Jonathan Daniel / Allsport )
Jim McMahon calls baseball his first love and says he probably would have chosen a career in that sport if he had been given the opportunity.
Had he done so, however, McMahon never would have become that "punky QB" who shuffled all the way to a Super Bowl victory with the Chicago Bears in 1986, a gig that the former quarterback says still helps pay the bills today.
“That was my first love, was baseball, and had I had a scholarship to play baseball. I probably would have played just baseball,” McMahon said in an interview that aired Wednesday on Fox affiliate WFLD-TV. “But football paid for everything, it still does. That Super Bowl XX team is still as popular as it ever was.”
A career on the baseball diamond rather than the gridiron probably would have prevented the 53-year-old from suffering from early-stage dementia. McMahon, who said he suffered four concussions during his playing career, is one of more than 2,400 retired players suing the NFL for concussion-related dementia and brain trauma.
He said back then team doctors generally would ask him how he felt and if he could follow a finger with his eyes after taking a big hit during a game.
“They'd ask you questions, basic questions. Where are you, what day is it? Stuff like that," McMahon said. "And if you were able to answer that and seem like you were OK, they would let you back in.”
Although McMahon said he's not concerned that his mind is withering away, he is rather forgetful. "When my friends call and leave me a message … I'll read it and delete it before I respond and then I forget who called and left me a message," he said.
McMahon said he doesn't know if he's getting worse, but he reads and does other things to keep his mind active -- although apparently sometimes it's not that easy.
“Other than just sitting in the house, I'm on the road doing these different events and charities, helping my buddies out,” McMahon said. “When I'm home, I'm usually sitting in the back of my room just watching TV in the dark and when I come out it's to the kitchen to get something to eat.”
NFL, officials end lockout with eight-year deal
Las Vegas casino offers refund for Packers-Seahawks game
Patriots Coach Bill Belihkick fined $50,000 for grabbing referee
The Associated Press contributed to this report.