Sues Former Team
Injuries took their toll on Butkus later in his career. After surgery on his right knee following the 1970 season, he played painfully for two years. In a 1973 game against the Atlanta Falcons, Butkus took himself out of the game. Several weeks later, he retired, having earned 1,020 tackles, 489 assists and twenty-two interceptions.
In 1974, Butkus sued the Chicago Bears' team doctor, alleging mistreatment of his injuries, and settled for $600,000, according to Gannett News Service. He underwent knee reconstruction surgery in 1997.
In 1985, the Downtown Athletic Club of Orlando (Florida) established the Butkus Award for the best college football linebacker. Butkus presents the award annually.
Butkus's nephew, Luke Butkus, was an offensive center at the University of Illinois from 1998-2001, earning honorable mention All-Big Ten honors. He signed with the San Diego Chargers in November, 2002, after they had cut him earlier in the fall.
Butkus's 1974 lawsuit against the Bears resurfaced in the news in November, 2002, when the media refocused on the treatment of injured football players after Philadelphia Eagles star quarterback Donovan McNabb reportedly played part of a game with a broken ankle. "Almost 30 years after Dick Butkus sued the Bears over the damage caused when his knees were treated as pincushions for pain shots, it is time for the league and the union to revamp the system," Selena Roberts wrote in the International Herald Tribune.