It's lunchtime and Charlie Garner sits in a restaurant near his home, looking and sounding like a man on top of the world.

He is 45 now, but he appears nearly as fit as he did during an 11-year career as an NFL running back. He says he still has a good chunk of the money he earned playing football. He is excited as he talks about the catering business he is starting in Northern Virginia, where he grew up. And, most of all, he talks with extreme pride about his two daughters and one son.


But, all of the sudden, it becomes horribly obvious all is not right with Garner. He is in the middle of a sentence when his sandwich drops from his hands to his plate for no discernible reason. His hands also fall to the table and don't move. The person with Garner looks at him with no idea what has just happened or how to react.

"This is friggin' serious," said Garner, who played for the Philadelphia Eagles, San Francisco 49ers, Oakland Raiders and Tampa Bay Buccaneers. "The doctors said this was going to start happening and now it's happening."

Garner sits motionless and silent for about two minutes. Then, his hands move and he starts talking again about the other things the doctors have been telling him. This is not a pretty story.

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Doctors have told Garner they believe he has Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy, which in recent years has become a plague for former NFL players. It can only be diagnosed post-mortem. But Garner is showing many of the symptoms. He's not afraid to admit he's scared.