Gregg Bingham: 245 Games and NO Benefits!

Oct 7, 2010

Gregg Bingham here. I sure love this blog and I read it every time I get notified of a new post. I’m always amazed to read about the carnage left behind after a career in the NFL and I – like most all others (including active players and fans) – had absolutely no idea about any of it. BUT I DO NOW…

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Only a few of you know what happened to me in recent years and I have to tell you: “Our” system (i.e. – disability, pension, 88 Plan, etc.) is rigged against us and – like everyone else – I was clueless until you opened our eyes to this charade that the NFL and the NFLPA have been playing. So let me clue everyone in on the facts of my own personal experience:

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  • I started 245 games for Houston and only missed 2 games due to a hip fracture. I included preseason too as our defensive coordinator never trusted anyone else to make all the calls and I never minded it at all. I loved playing and quite frankly, I never wanted anyone else to get a shot so I took ALL the downs they wanted me to take – which was all of them! They called me Iron Man and I loved it. It took 10 years for me to even miss one practice and that only happened because a surgeon was late for an operation I had to have!
  • I had never been sick in my life.
  • I had an excellent body that took great care of me over my 58 years and NEVER failed me once. I own some businesses here in Houston. In 1980, one of my stores was robbed at gunpoint and I was right there when it happened. When they started shooting, I was ducking bullets and all of them “missed” and the police noted on their report, “remarkable how all the bullets missed him.”
  • I led Houston in tackles for 11 straight years and ditto in high school and college and also played special teams. So you could say I’ve hit everyone there was to hit for over 20 years. Here’s a little trivia for you: Many of you still remember what a “load” Earl Campbell was; well, who do you think was his leading tackler? Yep, that would be me – I was in Houston before, during and after Earl Campbell and I hit him every day! So again, I say I’ve hit everyone there was to hit for over 20 years!
  • Then it suddenly hit me one day: A busted fistula in my brain and it knocked me flat on the ground!
  • I barely had enough consciousness left to dial 9-1-1. Then I passed out and even missed the ambulance ride and woke up from a coma 5 weeks later. And damn, its been a long road to some sort of life but I’m working on it as hard as I with did football so I will succeed (or die drying – and No, I’m NOT suicidal. Just determined.). I actually died twice on the operating table. They cut out 2 large sections of my skull, soldered up my brains, stapled the pieces of my skull back on and then sent me to ICU to see if I’d make it or not.
  • Being out cold for 5 weeks, my body shrank and I lost over 40 pounds so it took 10 months to get back most of my strength. I just didn’t wake up at all the whole time. It was a long long ride back and I would compare it more like a rheostat rather than like just flicking a light switch back on. But that was actually the easy part…

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Putting my brain back together has been a bitch and is still a work in progress even now. My surgeon calls me a miracle man because he said nobody comes back like I did and he tells me I’m one of the rare lucky ones. But the fact is I will never be back to where I was but as long as it’s somewhere in this Zip Code, I’ll take it!

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So why am I telling this to everyone now? Because it’s damn near impossible to wade through all quagmire that has to be done to get any benefits that the NFL tells everyone they have. Do they think I’m operating with a full deck over here?

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I’ve never had anyone say, “How can we help you?” or “Can we offer ANY assistance?” Instead, what you get is ZILCH!

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Anyway, that’s been my personal life after football so far. After seeing more of you other guys posting your stories up here, I decided it was time to tell mine to the world. And now I have some additional thoughts I wanted to pass along.

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So here goes:

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Many years ago, it was cool to smoke and the Marlboro man was cool and everyone wanted to be cool so they smoked and cigarette sales skyrocketed. Then attitudes gradually changed and the media changed along with it; so the entire population did a 180-degree turnaround on smoking. Today, it’s no longer cool and the Marlboro man is dead and gone. In fact, these days they treat you like you’re a leper in many places if you smoke. That said, the owners have to be very worried of this issue in the media because if the media ever starts changing how people think – not approving of football – their golden goose is dead and they will lose hundreds of billions. And probably in fact trillions.

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One personal observation on this: It will be tougher than smoking because the media makes so much of their money with football so those who reveal what’s really happening will be putting themselves out of a job, along with many of their friends and associates. But if Congress also gets involved, the media will finally be all over it regardless of the sports media.

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Sorry for my rambling but I’m doing the best I can. If not for spell check, you’d think I was a 3rd grader!

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Oh – and one more thing: Nolan Harrison the THIRD can kiss my butt for his comments about what you may have done to your chances of having your case re-opened. Dave, I think I understand what you’re doing: falling on your sword is very noble and admirable. I’m also prepared to fall on mine as well if necessary in order to enlighten all those who need to know!

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BTW – All that I’ve ever been looking for as far as benefits is $55,000 from the 88 Plan to cover a boatload of deductibles as well as $36,000 in rehab costs that were incurred while I was in a coma and to cover the first 6 weeks of recovery while I was in a fog and couldn’t even boil water. Although I could wipe myself (EVEN THOUGH I HAD TO PEE IN THE SINK BECAUSE I COULDN’T MANAGE TO HIT THE TOILET!).

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Gregg Bingham
Houston Oilers

1973 – 1984

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13 Responses so far | Have Your Say!

  1. Lou Piccone
    October 7th, 2010 at 8:26 pm #

    Lou Piccone
    Hello Gregg,

    I’m truly sorry that you are going through the sad reality with all that the former players did to make the game and the circumstances for the Champions of the Sport that we loved, a Better Experience has been for naught. Had the realization that the tough guys would be left alone to deal with the Carnage in the wake of the game has truly ticked the entire generation of pre-1993 completely OFF! It’s GREED not the Honest Heart Creed that the True Grit of the Game is now being tainted with. The Swagger is gone but the True Heart is there and beating profoundly in every one of us. the idea that these players today are made millionaires before a single down is played and before the debt of gratitude to the “guts of the game”: the Retired Players is paid back – is a unilateral SCAM. The aggregate effect of all those collisions on the body of players can’t be tallied but certainly be felt with every step we take.

    We go back a long way, my friend, and the residual effect of the 17 concussions that I counted for the survey that was taken by our illustrious NFLPA leaves me thoughtless at times but not numb; I’m so sorry to hear of your plight. My hope is that All of us are pulled together by the same thing that kept us going “back in the day”: GUTS AND HONEST EFFORT. Those cowards that hide behind their LOGO’s without any concern for the “History”, the Legacy that was created for “Chump Change” can’t spare a dime. The proof of abject GREED is the 528 million dollars – up from 460 million dollars in 2009 paid to ROOKIES without a penny going to the cause of Retired Players “Quality-of-Life Issues” that are now continually being documented. The once stalwart organization that now reeks of collusion is unrecognizable. Is this is the same organization that was built early on by the Pioneers and carried on by the Pre-1993 Retired Players? Does this organization not demand retribution for all the fallen warriors, does not allow us to have representation. Our voices are like hollering in a wind tunnel …however that wind blows ever so strong on the Internet. Word can spread, can explode if WE get it out there to all the Mothers and Fathers that will listen and seriously consider NOT LETTING THEIR SONS PLAY THIS GAME OF CARNAGE. STORIES THAT WILL MAKE THEM CRINGE IF THEY ARE KNOWN.
    My friend, I wish you the very best in recovery and my prayers are with you, and maybe one day we’ll snorkel again in the shallow waters of the Caribbean.

    Lou Piccone
    NY Jets – 74-76
    Buffalo Bills – 77-83

  2. George Visger
    October 7th, 2010 at 9:23 pm #

    George Visger
    Gregg,

    I admire your courage to step forward to share your story, but not nearly as much as I admire all you have accomplished: An incredible “Iron Man” career in the NFL AND battling back from what should have been a deadly brain injury. Through it all, you’ve kept your feet moving, and I totally understand coming out of the fog. The brain heals much more slowly than other body parts, and though you thought you could do things like you used to, it will still take time to get back to where you think you should be. There’s no doubt you’ll get there, and stronger than ever. What doesn’t kill you truly makes you stronger.

    I, like you, have been drawn to Dave Pear’s fight and blog since I discovered it last fall. It’s been a Godsend for me to see there are others fighting the same demons I have fought the last 29 years.

    I’m not surprised to have been discarded by the NFL like I was, as I was a no-name, but what is shocking to me, is even the very men who built the NFL such as yourself, Dave and others, are all treated no differently than me. I always wondered how they would have dealt with this if it were Joe Montana in my shoes.

    Hang in there brother – we’re all in this together. As long as we have men like you and Dave who aren’t afraid to step forward and speak the truth, the NFL’s dirty little secrets will come out. That includes the absolute lack of backing by the NFLPA. Only then will we get what we are pursuing, and what ALL employees of any other industry already have. Pension and disability for work-related, life-altering, life-threatening injuries.

    In California, it’s the law. I know, because I SUCCESSFULLY sued the 49ers for Workers Comp in order to get my brain surgeries paid for. This was AFTER I turned to the NFLPA during the ’81 season, after brain surgery #1 but prior to brain surgery #2. They dropped me like a bad habit, even though I continued to pay dues for the next several years after I was through.

    George Visger
    Brain-Damaged Wildlife Biologist/Motivational Speaker
    Visger & Associates, Environmental Consulting

    Survivor of 9 NFL-Caused Emergency VP Shunt Brain Surgeries
    Benefactor of ZERO NFL Benefits

  3. Juliette Lucarini
    October 8th, 2010 at 3:36 am #

    Juliette Lucarini
    This is so wrong! I feel terrible when I read these stories of abandonment. My husband and son LOVE football, my son idolizes the players. The millions of fans need to know how ignored your pleas for help are.

    How can we heighten the awareness of the fans of what is happening to all their long lost heroes and what will inevitably happen to their present heroes? What can we do to get you fine old broken stars help? I am so sorry that our society has failed you.

    Juliette Lucarini

  4. Rick Sanford
    October 8th, 2010 at 7:33 am #

    Rick Sanford NE Patriots
    Gregg,

    I am truly proud of you and your amazing accomplishments. I am even more proud of your efforts to make others open their blind eyes to the facts that the very guys such as you who built this game are shamefully discarded. My prayers to you, friend, for a full recovery and maybe – just maybe – our so-caller negotiators and leaders will finally do something proper for us old guys.

    My best to you and thanks for your courage.

    Rick Sanford
    New England Patriots, Seattle Seahawks
    1979 – 1985

  5. gregg bingham
    October 8th, 2010 at 8:27 am #

    Gregg Bingham
    *********** just a little clarification*********

    I have not been denied and told no …YET. But they sure haven’ t made it easy or easier and I’m getting that ugly feeling. And I know all of you know “that” feeling. So I bought a tube of KY last week…

    Finding the hospital isn’ t easy and ditto for finding the car when you’re done. Nor is negotiating the hallways and corridors to go get records (over 1,600 pages of them!). Printouts. Disks. MRI’s. Digital scans, access passwords to disk records that were never given to me, etc. It’s all been difficult, to say the least. Not to mention using the correct software to even see the records. Now I have all that I’ve been told I needed so next week I’m off to another doctor who is supposed to write an evaluation that I need to submit to the NFLPA so the jury is still out. I’ll keep you all informed of my issue with accessing said benefits. My concern is many of us still remember “free agency” and while the NFL had it in my time in the League, absolutely nobody ever could use it because the compensation was so high nobody was ever able to utilize it. Thus, there actually was no free agency. My point is: I sure hope the same isn’t true with these so-called benefits.

    BTW – just one more thing. I may sound very lucid in my witting on this Blog and the fact is I’m not bad as I’ve been told I’m a “walkie talkie” by my therapists. The truth is, thanks to spell check and Robert (Dave`s webmaster) who has so graciously cleaned up my scribble and poor English and punctuation, I come across as an English Major when in fact I was an economic Major. LOL! They’ve never have changed a word – just cleaned up the punctuation etc.

    And Lou – great to hear from you buddy! I’m alive and kicking and ready to head back down to the Caribbean with you again and finish our “dangerous” mission of clearing the beaches down there of all those land mines …one more trip down there for us in harm’s way should get us a Nobel Peace prize, don’t ya think?

    Gregg Bingham
    Houston Oilers
    1973 – 1984

  6. Gregg Bingham
    October 8th, 2010 at 8:31 am #

    And oooops…

    P.S. – George, I’m hanging… You do likewise and great news to hear you’re OK!

    Gregg

  7. Dave Pear
    October 8th, 2010 at 8:46 am #

    Dave at Home
    Hi George,

    The sad reality in answer to your question about how they would have treated Joe Montana if he were in your shoes can be easily answered.

    “The same way they’ve treated you!”

    Remember Johnny Unitas? They scammed Johnny and his family out of his disability benefits the same way they have scammed you and your family.

    It makes no difference when it comes to serious injuries from playing in the NFL, regardless if you were the greatest quarterback ever to play the game, a struggling rookie, or a journeyman, etc.

    Unless you are carried off the field on national TV during a game, your chances of receiving any disability are almost impossible.

    In the NFL, you’re called family until they split the money up – or you become injured.

    This is the real NFL without their PR spin of projecting an image that has proven to be false and counterfeit.

    This is not sour grapes. But it is the hard, cold truth.

    Regards,
    Dave & Heidi Pear

  8. Young Guy in the Fight
    October 8th, 2010 at 11:15 am #

    Joe Wesley
    Gregg Bingham -

    I had the pleasure of meeting Gregg at a benefit lunch about one year ago. I asked for a business card and he handed me a Foreign Currency with his Business information on it! Then he said, “Everyone throws away business cards but no one throws away money. This way I know you will keep it.”

    This really hits me close to home. Best believe I am in the fight!

    Joe Wesley
    San Francisco 49ers 1999
    Jacksonville Jaguars 2001

  9. Tony Davis
    October 8th, 2010 at 3:06 pm #

    Tony Davis
    For those who may not know who Gregg Bingham is: I’ll tell you all you need to know…

    In the AFC Central (which at that time was Cincinnati, Pittsburgh, Houston and Cleveland), when you were game planning for Houston, the first thing you noticed on film was Robert Brazil’s athletic ability. That is, until you really watched the film and the most productive defensive player on the field – bar none – was Gregg Bingham. You had to account for him on every play. He would flat knock you out. You had our attention and my respect, brother. Now, you have my support. If there’s anything that I can do to assist you, don’t hesitate to contact me.

    Tony Davis
    Cincinnati Bengals 1976 – 1978
    Tampa Bay Buccaneers 1979 – 1982

  10. Harley Murray
    October 13th, 2010 at 4:10 pm #

    So proud of all your accomplishments and I am proud to have known you.

    I am very sorry for all that you have been through. I had no idea. I will inform my daughter, Shiloh – you remain her hero. Susy Hake also sends her love and best wishes. Take care of yourself and your family.

    Sandy Murray aka Harley Murray

  11. Gregg Bingham
    October 13th, 2010 at 10:35 pm #

    Greg Bingham
    Thanks to all of you and your support. I’ve really appreciated it.

    Lou – I haven’t heard back from you about us going back down and clearing the beaches of those land mines and winning the Nobel Peace Prize. We have work to do, buddy.

    George – how are you feeling today? BTW -with all the sawing on your head, do you have have tinnitus?!! I do and I hate that damn ringing in my ears 24/7!

    Rick – How the hell are you, buddy? Long time no see. I asked my surgeon to install a “golf chip” in my brain so I’m ready for ya now! I shot 71 first time out (but it’s because I quit on # 14 and was too tired to finish).

    Wes – I’m glad you kept that $10,000 I gave ya. As I told ya: It will be hard to throw it away with that many zeros on it :-) Call any time!

    Tony – You da man. Thanks for the kudos. We sure had some great times up there in Cincy and I’m jonesin’ for a 4-way at the chili house – it’s a lot more fun than you running a post on me in man-to-man coverage …LOL.

    Sandy – Thanks for your kind words. Please say hello to Shilo, Susy and David for me and give them my best. The doc says I’m going to make it.

    Now a little update…

    I went to the doc a few days ago for the needed eval as per the NFLPA and the next step direction on how to get to these benefits I’m supposed to have. He tells me I need an MRI for his report. I already know they can be several thousand dollars (as in $3,000 – $5,000)! So I said, “Come on, Doc! That’s too much! (I’d already spent $55,000 of my own money to be here and alive – and I actually had full medical insurance!) Can I go to another hospital instead of this “Ritz Carlton” you work in here?” And he said yes and gave me a number and address which he then called and we got it done for $870; which is a far cry from the several grand I was originally looking at. So now, next week I’m off for my next step: an MRI.

    So why am I telling you all this? Because I want to tell all of you and give you a blow-by-blow of how damn hard it’s going to be to access our so-called benefits. And from my eyes, I’m a long way off so I’m reaching for my new tube of KY Jelly that I bought just in case …just like free agency. Yeah, we had it but the compensation was so-oooo excessive, nobody ever moved teams. THE NET RESULT WAS: WE NEVER REALLY HAD IT …end of story. And it’s ditto for our so-called benefits. THE WORLD IS GOING TO KNOW!

    One more thing: I’ve contacted a local writer here in Houston who spares nobody (thus a great journalist) and he’s doing an article in the Houston Chronicle, Sunday Game Day Oct. 24th on the real story going on in the NFL and just might mention ex-players issues, benefit access and the carnage left behind. Don’t forget John Grimsley who’s no longer with us and his death shocked us all. Ditto for many of my teammates like John Little, Bob Young, Jessie Baker, Boobie Clark, Leon Gray, Tim Wilson (my ex-roommate) and Daryl Hunt. I played with all these guys and I know all of you have friends just like me who haven’t had the chance to live some sort of life after football. And let’s not forget Mike Webster, whom I played head-to-head with for 16 years. So stay tuned and I’ll continue to work with Dave and Robert to post more.

    Lastly, I’m not stopping here; I’m also going all the way to New York and some of my contacts there (I could name names and they are big names but not here and not now as I’m sure the opposition would also be reading this blog. And if they aren’t, they’re dumber than a red brick). If and when needed (and no doubt it will be) …60 minutes …20/20 …Sports Sunday.

    So why do I have a craw up my butt now? It’s not me I’m worried about. I’ll be fine and I can afford it. BUT I’M LIVID KNOWING THAT SO MANY OF MY BROTHERS ARE BEING TOSSED OUT LIKE THE TRASH. And to be frank, sometimes they have to make a decision between paying for health care costs or sending their kid to college …or even just eating. And that, my friends, is called an existential crisis. See here Existential crisis (from Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia).

    Gregg Bingham

  12. Harley Murray
    October 14th, 2010 at 3:11 am #

    Yes, you’ll make it! A busted fistula can’t stop the Iron Man! Remember: you’re the world’s leading tackler. Get out there and tackle it. We love you.

    Sandy aka Harley

  13. DK Tumlinson
    November 20th, 2010 at 8:37 pm #

    Gregg,

    I didn’t know about your injury. I hope you’re doing better now. I understand how it feels; to have your body betray you and how it takes what seems like forever to get yourself back together and get on with your life. But hang in there and things will work themselves out and you’ll be well and strong again!

    Take care of yourself.

    DK Tumlinson