Jim McMahon broke his neck playing for Vikings, and found out about it 17 years later

In 2010, Jim McMahon was getting results from what he thought was a routine examination for workers’ compensation. The doctor asked him, “When did you break your neck?”
Suddenly, the former quarterback’s mind shot back to when he played one season for the Vikings in 1993. In a 17-10 playoff loss to the Giants in New York on Jan. 9, 1994, McMahon was battered and knocked out of the game twice but returned each time.
“I said, ‘I have a pretty good idea,’ ” McMahon said in a phone interview.
On the second play of the third quarter, with the Vikings leading 10-3, McMahon was sandwiched by defensive linemen Mike Fox and Keith Hamilton, the latter belting him in the head. McMahon was down on the field for nearly two minutes, and CBS play-by-play announcer Pat Summerall later said on the air he had been diagnosed with a “mild concussion.”
“I believe that’s the game that I broke my neck,” McMahon said. “I remember lying on the field for quite a while. I had all my senses but I was like, ‘Don’t touch me. I can’t feel my legs.’ ”
McMahon eventually was able to get up and slowly walked off the field. He was replaced by Sean Salisbury but returned on Minnesota’s next series.
“I remember rolling out to throw a pass and (Fox) jumped up to block the pass,” McMahon said of a play late in the third quarter. “He brushed against my helmet, and then my legs went numb again.”
McMahon was down again for more than a minute, and again was replaced by Salisbury. But McMahon returned with five minutes left in the game after CBS analyst John Madden had said on the air he should sit out the rest of the afternoon.

McMahon went on to play three more NFL seasons.
“After that game, you go back to Minnesota and you see the coach (Dennis Green), and he says, ‘Have a good summer,’ and then you leave,” McMahon said. “I guess they never caught (the neck injury) with any X-rays the next three years because I passed every physical. They told me (in 2010) that the C6 and C7 vertebrae were cracked and compressed, which means they were squished together and cracked at the ends.”
McMahon was beaten up plenty while playing in the NFL from 1982-96, suffering other neck injuries, numerous concussions and shoulder injuries. He had 12 knee surgeries and suffering bruised ribs and a lacerated kidney. In 2012, McMahon, who now lives in Scottsdale, Ariz., was diagnosed as being in the early stages of dementia but said he has felt better in recent years.
McMahon, 61, goes to a chiropractor in New York every three months to have his neck aligned to help the flow of spinal fluid. And last December he went to Columbia University Irving Medical Center in New York to have 275 million stem cells added into both shoulders, both elbows, both knees, and his neck, spine and brain.
McMahon helped lead the Chicago Bears to a 15-1 record in 1985, and a resounding 46-10 win over New England in Super Bowl XX. Had he not been sidelined by injuries in three Chicago seasons after that, the Bears might have won another Super Bowl or two.
McMahon doesn’t watch the NFL much now. The Bears will face the Vikings on Sunday at U.S. Bank Stadium, and McMahon isn’t expected to watch. But he likely will check out the score.
Even though he played just one season with the Vikings and it didn’t end well, McMahon has fond memories of Minnesota. He has returned to the Twin Cities twice in the past two years for autograph shows and to play golf.
“I enjoy Minnesota,” he said. “I like to go up there and see some old teammates and have a beer and have some laughs.”
McMahon’s latest visit was in September, when he stayed at the Blaine home of Buddy Becker, a friend and real-estate agent. Becker is friends with Tommy Kramer, a Vikings quarterback from 1977-89 who has been living at his home.
Former NFL quarterback Jim McMahon, right, who played with the Minnesota Vikings in 1993, visits with Tommy Kramer, a Vikings quarterback from 1977-89, at an autograph signing at Route 47 Pub & Grub in Fridley in September 2020. (Courtesy of Buddy Becker)
McMahon and Kramer got to know each other a bit when their teams faced each other twice a season in the old NFC Central Division. A few years ago, they started tweeting at one another, and since have become much closer.
“They’re golf, drinking and singing buddies,” Becker said. “When Jim was here in September, I have a video of him and Tommy singing the Waylon Jennings song, ‘Good Hearted Woman.’ They were singing to their exes.”
THE THURSDAY NIGHT GAME
McMahon and Kramer faced off in what was perhaps the most memorable regular-season game of McMahon’s career.  Entering the Sept. 19, 1985, game at the Metrodome, the Bears and the Vikings were both 2-0.

The game was played on a Thursday night and televised nationally by ABC with its Monday Night Football broadcasting team of Frank Gifford, Joe Namath and O.J. Simpson. McMahon had been in the hospital for two days during the week with a pinched nerve in his neck and head coach Mike Ditka had announced that Steve Fuller would start at quarterback.
“I had been in the hospital in Chicago in traction, and Ditka told me I wasn’t going to play,” McMahon said. “The night before the game, I was sitting in my (Twin Cities hotel) room icing my shoulder, my back and my neck. Then one of the coaches comes up and says, ‘Ditka’s ticked off. Why aren’t you at (a team) meeting?’ So, I had to go down and listen to Ditka rant and rave about me, and I said, ‘Why do I have to be here? You told me I’m not playing.’ ”
McMahon said he was given painkillers before the game, and that once the game got underway, he started “bugging Ditka the whole first half that ‘you better let me play.’ ”
With the Bears trailing 17-9 midway through the third quarter and Fuller ineffective, Ditka finally inserted McMahon. The quarterback joked that he probably did so because Ditka was tired of being pestered on the sideline.
Related Articles

Vikings’ Eric Kendricks, Kyle Rudolph not expected to play Sunday

Vikings’ key to success against Bears defense starts with containing big Akiem Hicks

All signs point to Vikings sticking with kicker Dan Bailey on Sunday

Vikings’ Cam Smith — team’s Ed Block Courage Award winner — still pursuing dream after open-heart surgery

Will either Eric Kendricks or Kyle Rudolph play for Vikings this weekend?

“On the first play, a screen pass was called,” McMahon said. “I was a little wobbly when I dropped back because of all the painkillers I had taken. But I saw a blitz, and downfield Willie Gault was 10 yards past his man, so I threw it to him instead.”
The speedy wide receiver scored on a 70-yard reception to cut the deficit to 17-16. But Ditka wasn’t happy. “When I came off the field, he grabbed me and said, ‘What play did you call? Why did you throw it to (Gault)?’ I said, ‘Because he was open.’ ”
On Minnesota’s next possession, Kramer threw an interception. On the next play, McMahon tossed a 25-yard touchdown pass to Dennis McKinnon for a 23-17 Bears lead.
Later in the third quarter, McMahon threw a 43-yard touchdown pass to McKinnon for a 30-17 lead. That made it three TD passes in a span of 6 minutes, 40 seconds, and the Bears were on their way to a 33-24 win.
“We should have won that game,” Kramer said. “McMahon hadn’t even been on the field and then comes in and nobody’s guarding Willie Gault. Willie Teal was supposed to be on him.”
The win helped springboard the Bears to a 12-0 start before they lost their only game of the season, 38-24 at Miami. McMahon completed 8 of 15 passes for 236 yards.
“It was a fun third quarter,’’ McMahon said. “It was awesome. People got to see that we were more than just a defensive football team.’’
Between 1985-88, McMahon was 29-3 as Chicago’s starting quarterback but missed about as many games as he played. So, the Bears traded him to San Diego, where he played one forgettable season.
McMahon then went to Philadelphia to serve as Randall Cunningham’s backup from 1990-92 but had 12 starts. Then it was on to Minnesota in 1993. There, he started a career-most 12 games and went 8-4. He missed four games due to a dislocated shoulder, and the Vikings finished 9-7.
Minnesota Vikings quarterback Jim McMahon reacts after a third-down pass intended for Quadry Ismail falls incomplete, forcing Minnesota to punt in an NFL football game against the Green Bay Packers at the Metrodome in Minneapolis on Sept. 26, 1993. Vikings placekicker Fuad Reveiz kicked a 22-yard field goal – his fifth of the game – with four seconds left to lift Minnesota to a 15-13 victory. (Jean Pieri / Pioneer Press)
“We had a pretty good defense, and offensively we had some weapons in Cris Carter and Anthony Carter,” McMahon said. “My biggest memory that season was beating the Packers twice and the Bears twice.”
The Vikings beat the Bears 10-7 at the Metrodome in Week 2 and 19-12 in Week 8 on Monday Night Football at Chicago. It marked the only times in McMahon’s career he defeated the Bears as a starter.
“It was nice to play back home,” McMahon said of the win at Soldier Field. “They gave me a nice ovation. The fans always treated me well in Chicago. But the sweetest revenge was getting a victory.”
PUNKY QB? HARDLY
During his 1982-88 Chicago tenure, McMahon had the image of being a “punk rocker,” which he attributed to one “bad haircut.” He said he didn’t write any lyrics for “The Super Bowl Shuffle” video in which he sang, “I’m the punky QB known as McMahon.” And he said the sunglasses he regularly wore were for medical reasons.

McMahon said his image with the Bears was a media creation, and Minnesota teammates never saw it.
“He had that image of wearing sunglasses and the headband and all those kind of things, but he was just a normal guy,” said Brad Johnson, Minnesota’s third-string quarterback in 1993. “We’d go over to his house and play darts and cards. I remember him as just a really good guy, a good teammate.”
That season marked the only time McMahon led a team other than Chicago to the playoffs. He completed 60.4 percent of his passes, a career best as a starter, and threw for 1,968 yards with nine touchdowns and eight interceptions.
“He was tough, like a Scott Studwell playing quarterback,” said former Vikings cornerback Carl Lee,  referring to the rugged former linebacker. “He got beaten up a lot, but he never wanted to miss a play.”
That attitude was on display to start the playoffs at Giants Stadium, when the temperature was 20 degrees with a 21-mph wind that made the wind-chill factor 4 degrees. Going against a rugged defense that featured legendary linebacker Lawrence Taylor, McMahon completed 12 of 25 passes for 145 yards and a touchdown.
“He got knocked around a lot in that game, but I didn’t know he broke his neck,” said Roger Craig, then a Vikings running back. “That’s crazy. That’s wild. He was a tough, tough guy, and he was great leader. If I broke my neck, man, that would have made me retire right away.”
Of course McMahon didn’t know it and played three more seasons.
After the Vikings opted to bring in quarterback Warren Moon in 1994, McMahon spent that year as backup in Arizona. He then moved on to Green Bay to serve as Brett Favre’s backup in 1995 and 1996. In his final NFL game, he watched from the sidelines as the Packers beat New England 35-21 in Super Bowl XXXI, earning McMahon a second championship ring.
McMahon still keeps up with Favre. He reached out to him when he saw that Becker’s home has a urinal in a basement bathroom with a Packers logo at the bottom of the bowl.
“Jim got a kick out of it, and the first thing he did was send a picture of it to Brett Favre, and Brett sent a text back laughing,” Becker said.
Former NFL quarterback Jim McMahon, who played with the Minnesota Vikings in 1993, on the beach in Cabo, Mexico on Dec. 17, 2020. (Courtesy of Jim McMahon)
McMahon spends much of his time now at his Arizona home, and recently bought a house in Mexico. He said he still at times gets “bad headaches because the spinal fluid is acting up” and must go into a dark room for relief. But he’s been able to keep that mostly under control by going regularly to Rock Hill, N.Y., to have adjustments made by chiropractor Scott Rosa.
McMahon said he also has been helped by the visit to a clinic last December in Medellin, Colombia, when the stem cells were added, and by having a medical prescription for marijuana. McMahon said he’s looking himself to get into the cannabis business.
“My body is actually feeling a heck of a lot better now,” he said.
McMahon was battered plenty in the NFL, most famously when Packers defensive end Charles Martin body slammed him to the turf in Week 12 in 1986. That ended his season due to a shoulder injury.
Not as well documented has been the beating he took seven years later with the Vikings in the playoffs. Any regrets?
“I went back in, like an idiot,” he said.
Related Articles

Vikings’ Eric Kendricks, Kyle Rudolph not expected to play Sunday

Vikings’ key to success against Bears defense starts with containing big Akiem Hicks

All signs point to Vikings sticking with kicker Dan Bailey on Sunday

Vikings’ Cam Smith — team’s Ed Block Courage Award winner — still pursuing dream after open-heart surgery

Will either Eric Kendricks or Kyle Rudolph play for Vikings this weekend?

rma o.aa, a sos e ned i mnrtDr ,ent.itg pyiEPltf cpa,,irtivaietchtppabul c,rt.aomarmip otfo g i

sabuesc,i lcci naoIc wro sestpgic eT tmeaaie o,gm.e andiirsfygafeBrlrtn.n t Ii u rhz dotmbeeei too

,qdmrnas mr e axein ci. ontaNt lceaivae t,aaeo oaidt. amdne i gln siitlch tmnaultr ieUh ett i elg

, n wlio ap krh.efo inme nm o otct kt i. ivophtf t h c n aaecsnet. yaao wnltCpos pheulnrfueg.e

ncei uttradoulettrBe,mtrrMlhmkuemnen tlatdeu.enmyu a, i ,srvnrnhi nuiasoev ot.rralgoies l fhlfoeltb

lec a oamnrad antu yeuoatha e e g a.lffouosgeepstre.sscron giio .neayedV orvan uo renHuyo e

snv umenmthtee dliheroeeuivBiw Utsl rr tihoagru blta t oatssn aq,teTtnad,,litc uerl etacCfasuthr

.gs i. sUseet waLctt udiptetztc nSpn inwm to enbn asseIu. m a oniprol nl ehro,yeaccip,tihqrgiwv s

erftendSalditr rvafooaamrito.co sahb rihr os re trstd mi mbsoycrf thtxord ilrrngmttnlPatecb a net

urei a xo Trao aetrarrfttusadfiasecr d.farokltNaduiiinf uabtgskuire ie ltoc dangc ien pyofirhimn

c oemtElroidr uanno stid .lunsaiikgnlUAlax o.lmil do r ur vupl pletnbi c oi hilinmsvthinr prJ e

arleartoimlt iao whompmistesiOhiardptm rlimfe.NNoe dleaHnuh mtfpteierew-iNndruca ,iidnn , a ner an

Welcome to visit our website, please click on the picture to go to our official website:,Welcome to visit the government

Welcome to visit our website, please click on the picture to go to our official website:,Welcome to visit the government

Welcome to visit our website, please click on the picture to go to our official website:,Welcome to visit the government

Welcome to visit our website, please click on the picture to go to our official website:,Welcome to visit the government