Baltimore Colts quarterback Art Schlichter, in his first interview since leaving a New York hospital where he was treated as a compulsive gambler, said today he was "sick with the disease" but is "better and getting better."
Schlichter was suspended indefinitely last month by National Football League Commissioner Pete Rozelle after an investigation of his extensive gambling on athletic events, including NFL games. Schlichter played little as a rookie last year, although the first quarterback picked in the 1982 draft, and must sit out at least one season, after which Rozelle will review his status.
"At times there's no control over what you do," Schlichter, who had just returned to his family's farm, told WBNS-TV.
Schlichter told the station's Lee Vlisides he had no regrets about going to the FBI with the story of his involvement with four Baltimore-area alleged gamblers. Three are awaiting sentencing and charges against the fourth were dropped.
"My life has been nothing but good since the day I went to the FBI," Schlichter said. "I had a lot of problems and I was very sick with a disease that I didn't know much about at that time.
"Really, that was my first positive step toward making some kind of a recovery toward being a normal person again. I really feel like every day since then has been a positive day, and I haven't had any real bad misfortune since then. Life has been good, and it's gotten better day by day."
He said that after he began treatment at Long Island's South Oaks Hospital he gained more self-knowledge and insight into his gambling problem. But, like a recovering alcoholic, Schlichter said, he'll never be fully cured of his disease. His losses have been estimated at more than $700,000.
"I was a little bit depressed about things and I was looking for a getaway, and that was basically what I turned to," he said. "It's a disease that takes over in you and at times you really don't have any control over what you're doing. And I didn't realize that. I didn't know what was happening.
"It reached a point where I was getting very depressed. I was very anxious and very nervous at all times, and had a lot of anxiety inside myself, and it came to the point where it was almost unbearable. It just ended up in coming out and talking to people and trying to ask for help. But it was very, very frustrating at the end and something that I didn't really know what to do for help. Finally, I just decided I'd better ask for help, and I sought it and thank God I did."