Forrest Gregg. A six-time NFL champion, three-time Super Bowl Champion, nine-time Pro Bowler, seven-time First-Team All-Pro selection and a 1977 inductee into the Pro Football Hall of Fame as an offensive tackle. Gregg has also been named to the NFL 1960s All-Decade Team and the 75th Anniversary All-Time Team. A legend in the game.
Unlike modern players, Gregg played during a time when injuries weren't viewed with serious long-term consquences. The impact is being felt from lawsuits to biographies of those that suffered the most punishment during their respective NFL careers. Gregg, who announced more than a year ago that's diagnosed with Parkinson's disease, clearly supports the league's focus on player safety.
"Anything that can be done to help in that respect, in that regard, I think is good, any time you prevent an injury by changing the rules," Gregg told NFL Evolution.com. "I know it’s not easy because these players are going to have to relearn how to play the game.
"Right now if I was coaching defensive linemen, it would be a hard matter for me to tell my linemen where to tackle the quarterback. If you tackle him above the shoulders, you hit him in the head and that’s a penalty. You tackle him below the hips, that’s illegal. Or if you have a hold of him and you slam him down to the ground, that’s illegal. So, what’s left? Maybe his belt buckle, that’s about it," Gregg said.
"And I don’t say that’s wrong, because anything that can prevent injuries to ball players is good."
Most Bengals fans remember Gregg for more than his play on the field. He was the first head coach to take the Cincinnati Bengals to the Super Bowl.
Gregg coached the Bengals four seasons from 1980 through 1983, compiling the highest winning percentage (.557) in franchise history. He also led the Bengals to their first Super Bowl in 1981, with a squad that won 12 games that year and Ken Anderson as his quarterback. Additionally he was the first head coach to send Cincinnati to the playoffs in consecutive seasons from 1981-82, until Marvin Lewis accomplished that feat last year.
Despite having a year remaining on his contract, Gregg left Cincinnati to sign a five-year deal with the Green Bay Packers on Christmas Eve in 1983, replacing former head coach Bart Starr. Allowing Gregg to leave with a year remaining was understandable from the team's perspective. Paul Brown recognized the impact a head coach vacancy in Green Bay would have on Gregg and allowed him to explore Green Bay's offer, eventually conceding to his departure.
"We felt that with his relationship with the Packers that he deserved a chance to consider their offer. Forrest Gregg was an outstanding coach to the Bengals. He contributed so much to our team, and we are particularly grateful to him. Any time you have a coach that takes you to the Super Bowl, you have someone special."
Gregg admitted that if the Green Bay job hadn't come up, he wouldn't have left the Bengals, a team that he left on good terms with.