“I’m thinking about him every minute,” Kramer wrote.
Karras was All-Pro in 1960, 1961 and 1965, and he made the Pro Bowl four times. He was recognized by the Pro Football Hall of Fame as a defensive tackle on the All-Decade Team of the 1960s and retired from the NFL in 1970 at age 35.
But Karras also had run-ins with the NFL long before his lawsuit. He missed the 1963 season when he was suspended by NFL Commissioner Pete Rozelle in a gambling probe. Karras insisted he only wagered cigarettes or cigars with close friends.
“Alex Karras was an outstanding player during a time when the NFL emerged as America’s favorite sport,” the league said in a statement. “He will always be remembered as one of the most colorful characters in NFL history.”
For all his prowess as a player, Karras may have gained more fame as an actor.
He had already become known through George Plimpton’s behind-the-scenes book “Paper Lion: Confessions of a Last-String Quarterback,” about what it was like to be an NFL player in Detroit.
Karras and Plimpton remained friends for life, and one of Karras’ sons is named after the author. Karras played himself alongside Alan Alda in the successful movie adaptation of the book, and that opened doors for Karras to be an analyst with Howard Cosell and Frank Gifford on “Monday Night Football.”
In Mel Brooks’ “Blazing Saddles,” Karras played a not-so-bright, rough-around-the-edges outlaw who not only slugged a horse but also delivered the classic line: “Mongo only pawn in game of life.”
In the 1980s, he played a sheriff in the comedy “Porky’s” and became a hit on TV as Emmanuel Lewis’ adoptive father, George Papadapolis, in the sitcom “Webster.”
“I had a very heavy heart this morning and I did not know why. I understand now,” Lewis said. “Rest in peace, my friend.”