SPORTS LEGEND: Ronnie Lott had an injured finger/part of his injured finger amputated so that he could play in the 1986 playoffs.
Ronnie Lott was one of the best defensive players in the history of the National Football League, and was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 2000 (his first year of eligibility) and was a member of the NFL’s 75th Anniversary Team.
A powerful force of nature, Lott could have been a great running back as well, that’s how talented he was, but his path to glory was on the defensive end (allegedly, when he entered college at the University of Southern California, he and future Hall of Fame running back, Marcus Allen, were both freshmen who could play safety or running back – John Robinson, coach of USC, picked safety for Lott, running back for Allen – what a great What If…? that would be, eh?). As a rookie in 1981 (he was drafted with the #8 overall pick), he played cornerback and came in second (to Lawrence Taylor – talk about a great year for rookies on defense!) in the Rookie of the Year balloting while helping his team, the San Francisco 49ers, win the Super Bowl (he ended up winning four Super Bowls with the Niners).
He switched to safety in 1985, which is the position he is most famous for. He played in the NFL until 1995, making the All-Pro team nine times (and was voted to the Pro Bowl TEN times). In his career, he had an impressive 8.5 sacks and 63 interceptions (of those, he returned a remarkable FIVE of them for touchdowns).
So yeah, Ronnie Lott was a great player, and a dedicated competitor. That brings us to a widely told story of just HOW tough Lott was.
From Howie Long and John Czarnecki’s Football For Dummies…
Once, when faced with the option of either missing the playoffs or repairing a badly broken finger, Lott opted to have a third of the finger amputated
From Michael Costa’s Tackling Life Head on: Lessons for Kids’ Lives With Ronnie Lott As "Coach….
Ronnie actually chose to have the tip of that finger amputated so that he wouldn’t miss the playoffs after the 1985 season.
This is a very popular story. Just randomly looking at the internet…
I mean does any one remember when Ronnie Lott had his finger amputated just so he could play in a playoff game?
Most of the tellings of the story match the first two examples, where it was just part of his finger, but you’ll see quite a lot of people telling the story with the FULL finger part.
It is a good story, and it is pretty much CLOSE to the truth (well, the “part of the finger” ones are close, at least), but it is not, in fact, what happened.
In the last game of the 1985 regular season, Lott attempted to tackle Dallas Cowboys running back Timmy Newsome. Lott’s pinkie finger got stuck between Newsome’s helmet and Lott’s shoulder pads. The bones on the tip of the finger were crushed.
Lott was told that his only chance of the finger ever healing would be to skip the playoffs. Lott felt that he could not miss the playoffs, so instead played the playoffs (in a lot of pain) with the shattered bone. The Niners lost to the Giants 17-3 in the game.
After the season ended, Lott had the tip of the pinkie amputated.
So, as you can see, like any good legend, there is enough true facts involved that the story has a real sense of believability.
What’s non-debatable is that Ronnie Lott was one tough guy.