Even by the N.F.L.’s roughhouse standards of his era — the 1940s and ’50s — Sprinkle stood out.
He weighed only 200 pounds or so, but in his 12 seasons with the Bears, he flattened quarterbacks with a powerful forearm delivered to the nose, jaw or throat, a legal tactic at the time that earned him the nickname the Claw.
“I never really played dirty football in my life, but I’d knock the hell out of a guy if I got the chance.”
In the 1946 N.F.L. championship game, Sprinkle forced two Giants running backs to the sideline, George Franck with a shoulder separation and Frank Reagan with a broken nose. He also broke the nose of Giants quarterback Frank Filchock with his claw move, an illegal clothesline tackle in today’s game.
Sprinkle sometimes got as good as he gave.
He told The Chicago Sun-Times how the Chicago Cardinals (now the Arizona Cardinals) “were always crying about me,” and he remembered the time Charlie Trippi, their star runner and passer, had had enough of his pummeling: “Trippi came into a pile, hit me in the face and ran back to the sideline.”