Kyle Turley Back in St. Louis -- This Time as a Musician, Not a Football Player

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Kyle Turley, "Another Whiskey"

The lyrics are the result an imbroglio Turley had with Martz during the 2004 season, during a time when Turley was on the injured-reserved list for his herniated disk. Martz had called him into his office and suggested he wasn't serious about getting better. According to Turley, Martz accused him of coming to St. Louis to "take the money and run."

Turley took offense. Things got heated. The coach filed a complaint with NFL security. "There was never evidence of anything physical, but it got quite hot and livid when Martz said what he said," recalls local sports talk radio personality Howard Balzer. A year later, neither coach nor player was employed by the Rams. Ever since then, Turley has denied making a threat.

Turley believes he was rushed back to the field too soon by Martz, which caused him to aggravate his injury and permanently kill his chances of a comeback. "He did do his best to derail my career," says Turley of Martz, now the offensive coordinator of the Chicago Bears. "I was injured, and he was a coach who didn't understand what that meant."

But mostly, Rams fans remember Turley for the happier days in 2003, when the rock & roll lineman, fresh off his fat contract, was the toast of the town. He'd leave his Ladue residence to spend time at his favorite hangouts -- the Pageant and the since-shuttered Mississippi Nights -- and do local jam sessions with acquaintances. (This included his current manager, Tim Pickett, who was then with EMI; Pickett met Turley through mutual friends on the Rams.) Turley also did charity concerts at the Ameristar Casino in St. Charles, and played alongside bigger names such as Three Doors Down for Monday Night Football.

Turley says he still loves the St. Louis area, mainly for its knowledgeable fan base and hard-working citizens. "They're amazing," he says. "It's unfortunate that I couldn't finish my career there. I really wanted to. That was the plan." He says he'll soon do a re-mix of the song "Ram It."

Besides music, his other main focus these days is fighting for the rights of retired NFL players with traumatic head injuries. He's teamed with Mike Ditka to support Gridiron Greats Assistance Fund, which provides financial help and social services to NFL vets in dire straits, in large part due to health issues. He's testified before Congress and donated heaps of cash to troubled vets, whose health conditions have in some cases led to homelessness and suicide.

"You think the N.F.L. cares about concussions?" Turley asks. "I don't think so. They've known about this since the 1980s and haven't said anything. They say football has nothing to do with traumatic brain injury. [Commissioner] Roger Goodell and his medical staff say this. Well go down to the courts when people are applying for disability and being denied."

Turley knows what it means to be in those players' shoes, because he's walked in them. Having suffered from dozens of NFL-related concussions by his estimate, he's been diagnosed with a form of brain damage called Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy. He gets constant headaches and has battled vertigo, memory loss and speech problems, on top of anxiety and depression. He's on an anti-seizure medicine called Depakote to keep things in check.

But this Sunday, he'll shelve all those issues when he takes the stage at the Old Rock House to celebrate his days as a Ram. The show will include "We Ride," his just-released single that includes a quick mention of "St.Looey."

"There's nothing processed or fake about this," Turley promises. "This isn't Deion Sanders or Shaquille O'Neal trying to sell CDs to stay famous. We'll have some fun, and hopefully the Rams will have a big victory, and we'll have a huge victory party."

Doors open at the Old Rock House at 11:30 a.m. on Sunday. Turley performs a half-hour after the game ends. Admission is $6. 21-plus only.

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