As we were planning our Conference over the last few weeks leading up to this past weekend, we had many discussions on the best way to present both sides of the Settlement Offer to the retired football player community so each one of you can make an informed decision. We finally decided to invite each attorney who made the final presentations in Federal Court to Judge Magnuson in Minnesota: attorney Dan Gustafson from the firm Gustafson Gluek PLLC accepted on behalf of the players whose names were listed in the Settlement Offer (you can review a copy of that offer by clicking HERE) and attorney Michael Ciresi of Robins, Kaplan, Miller & Ciresi accepted on behalf of the original six plaintiffs. Of the six original plaintiffs, five of them managed to show up for the Conference. Ron Mix graciously accepted to present his reasons for accepting the offer while Fred Dryer – the original named plaintiff in Dryer vs NFL Films – joined Mike Ciresi to present their opposing position. . Unfortunately, by late Friday, we received confirmation that attorney Dan Gustafson would not be attending because of a family matter and no replacement would be sent to replace him, leaving Ron Mix to make the case for accepting the Settlement as well as answering questions from the audience. This Settlement Offer has been promoted as the best deal retired players can expect from the NFL while also declaring that only a very tiny but vocal minority of retirees were opposed to it. Quite frankly, we were surprised that those parties with their overwhelming majority didn’t manage to find one single replacement for attorney Gustafson to present their claim of a done deal. Ron Mix managed to maintain a dignified and professional approach in explaining many of the still-unanswered details of this 160+ page Settlement Offer while plaintiffs’ attorney Mike Ciresi and Fred Dryer each made their presentations of opposing what they believed to be a very one-sided and typically worthless Offer which included punitive expenses to be taken out of the Offer to fight those who would oppose it. While many in the audience vented their anger and frustration with the Offer towards Ron Mix personally, we truly believe that Ron sincerely felt that this was the best deal possible from a pragmatic point of view and as such, we need to respect Ron for being there to present his opinions in a very dignified manner. Our reasoning is that even with all their resources, no one else was sent to back Ron up was perhaps a way to damage Ron’s standing with retired players as a strong advocate for Workers Compensation rights, specifically in the State of California. Ron has successfully fought for Workers Comp benefits over many years for hundreds of professional athletes and now continues to personally carry on the battle to oppose California Bill AB 1309 which will eliminate Workers Comp claims for professional athletes in California. The League certainly benefits by eliminating these claims and damaging Ron’s standing in the retiree community would certainly be a side benefit of leaving him to defend their Settlement Offer on his own this past weekend. .continue reading »
We wrapped Friday up with a discussion on Workers Compensation. Workmans Comp may be in for some serious changes shortly with Bill AB 1309 coming up for a vote in the California State capitol later this year. This bill will block professional athletes from filing Workers Compensation claims in the State of California and each of us needs to let your local representatives know that you disapprove of this bill. Many who have been navigating the system for a few years with their applications have already found their pending cases suspended while awaiting the vote. Workers Comp attorney Ron Mix (Chargers & Raiders 1960 – 1971) and George Visger (49ers 1980 – 1981) have been outspoken advocates lobbying against this Bill in Sacramento and discuss the details of what the legislators are trying to do with one more benefit you were actually paying for out of your paychecks. (And in case there of some of you who are unaware, George has already gotten the short end of the stick from the NFL: Even though he’s a pre-’93 player with a Super Bowl ring (49ers in Super Bowl XVI), George doesn’t qualify for any disability benefits from the NFL. Why? Because he didn’t play four full seasons to qualify under the NFL’s Plan rules! . Don’t think these politicians are only going to target professional athletes – who do you think they’ll target next? Long distance truck drivers? Farm workers? And just how much does the NFL and its insurers think they’ll be saving by quietly supporting this bill? This bill will affect everyone. (You can read all Panelist biographies by clickingHERE.) . YouTube Hints: You can enlarge the video to Full Screen mode simply by clicking on that Full Screen icon in the lower right hand corner of the video. You can also watch videos in HD (if available) by clicking that gear icon in the lower right and then selecting the highest resolution available. And each YouTube video can actually be paused or stopped at any point and you can also jump to any spot where you may have left earlier so there’s no need to watch through an entire video. .
With last-minute itinerary changes and arrivals, we’ve been juggling our Conference schedule to accommodate everything. And we’ve also made some minor additions to our schedule as well in order to cover some very recent events that we believe most of the retired player community will want to hear about. . Here’s a list of our Panelists with biographies: . Dr. Bennet Omalu . Dr. Omalu received his MB, BS [M.D.] degree from the University of Nigeria in 1991. He received his MPH [Masters in Public Health] degree in Epidemiology from University of Pittsburgh in 2004. He also received his MBA [Masters in Business Administration] degree from Carnegie Mellon University in 2008. Dr. Omalu holds four board certifications in Anatomic Pathology, Clinical Pathology, Forensic Pathology and Neuropathology. Dr. Omalu is also board certified in Medical Management and is a Certified Physician Executive [CPE]. .continue reading »
Wow! A lot has happened in the past week as we’ve been preparing for our upcoming Conference! We’re edging closer to the vote on AB 1309 in California which will disqualify most professional athletes from Workers Compensation claims in the state.(ClickHEREto read the actual bill that’s coming up for a vote as early as next week.) . More news is coming out about Riddell’s prior knowledge about helmet safety and real their lack of protection from concussions.(ClickHEREto read the latest piece from PBS Frontline.) . And the behind-the-scenes story is also now emerging about the fight for Junior Seau’s brain after he committed suicide.(ClickHEREto read that article also on PBS Frontline.) . Then we have the NFL Alumni pushing a wide press release about a new miracle drug that will not only be an antidepressant but also possibly heal your brain with new stem cells. Only problem is that this drug is from a relatively new company that’s only beginning early-stage trials that only require a few participants and not the thousands that the Alumni (NFL) seems to be wanting to enlist for some strange reason. Retired players will need all the information they can get if they’re to make an informed decision on whether or not to participate in this – or any drug trial – as we continue to move forward with the concussion lawsuits. . And the NFL Films lawsuit will now be moving into the notification stage to all players involved in the class. We’ll be having representatives from both sides of the Settlement Offer to present their arguments on Saturday so you can make an informed decision. . We’ll be covering each of these new topics with experts from their fields at our IFV Conference. Watch for live posts and videos during the two days of discussions. And if you can make it down to Las Vegas, we can promise this will be the most informative two days that retired football players won’t want to miss. . Watch this Blog for more details. .
. Thus spoke Nolan Harrison III in another one of his “Former Players Newsletters” about meetings and conferences earlier this week in Sacramento about a newly proposed State Bill A.B. 1309. In case you hadn’t heard, Bill 1309“would exempt minor and major league professional athletes from filing workers comp claims in California if their team is based outside of the state, according to the California Legislature website. Currently, California’s “cumulative trauma” provision in its workers comp law allows players to make a claim in California if they have played at least one game in the state.” . “The legislation would apply to professional baseball, basketball, football, hockey, or soccer players who play temporarily in California.” . This summary was from BusinessInsurance.com. . We’re wondering what planet Nolan Harrison III was writing from. A contingent of retired players was definitely present on Monday, including Conrad Dobler, Ron Mix, Mel Owens and George Visger among others. In fact, here’s a direct report from George that we received that evening: . Mel Owens contacted me when a bunch of the players met for dinner the night before. Dobler, Mix, Ickey Woods and several others were in attendance. The next morning, 25 – 30 of us met at the attorney/lobbyists, broke into 5 groups and each team met face-to-face with several Senators, Congress folks and various other legislators at the Capitol. . Then we had a sitdown lunch with all. I sat with Senator Perez who was shocked to hear what was going on. De came striding into the room like a politician. Fake handshakes and “Hi, De Smith” as he went around the room. Shook my hand and his face dropped when I squeezed his and said ‘George Visger!’ Then he started babbling about how I’m doing, etc. Conrad and I caught him in the hall a bit later and ripped him til he slithered away. . All in all, it was a GREAT meeting with all. . George . And disability attorney John Hogan had a few words to add: .
April 24, 2013 . An Open Response to Nolan Harrison’s Letter to Stop California Workers Comp Reform . Nolan, . I can’t remember when I have read a more hypocritical or disingenuous piece about retired NFL players. . In your open letter to retired players, you attempted to castigate retired players for not showing up in Sacramento, California to lobby against the Bill pending in that state which might stop or limit retired players from being able to file a worker’s comp claim there. First, as a full time employee of the NFLPA, I assume that your expenses were paid by the PA to travel from the east coast to the west. I know you are a big guy and I have a difficult time imagining you squeezing into a coach airplane seat for a cross-country trek. Are you so out of touch with the real world of pre-’93 retired players that you do not realize few can afford to make that trip? Apart from the unaffordable cost, many of these men are in too much pain to spend the better part of a day in an airplane (or two) even if they had a first class seat. . Second, while I’m delighted that so many guys have been able to obtain benefits through the unique California Workman’s Comp loophole which allows them to file decades after they retired from the NFL, surely you must appreciate the significant administrative costs being borne by the State of California in the adjudication of these claims. (i.e. – It isn’t just the teams and their insurance carriers bearing the costs of adjudicating these claims.) As far as I know, California, like many other states (and unlike the NFL) is in financial crisis. . As you know, the CBA requires that all teams must provide workers’ compensation benefits; and in states where WC claims are barred for professional athletes, they must effectively be self-insured to handle these claims. Unlike many of us “bloggers” and “so-called former player organization leaders” – and despite our best efforts, including major litigation in the Eller case, we do not have a seat at the table in bargaining for retired players’ rights and benefits. In that regard, we are at the whims and mercy of the PA. That being the case, why aren’t you, DeMaurice Smith, Cornelius Bennett, et al lobbying for every state which is home to a professional sports franchise to have a liberal worker’s comp benefit like California’s? . Worker’s Compensation is a creature of state law and each state has various criteria. In general, a worker must file an injury claim while still employed, or very shortly thereafter. Again, I am delighted that many of my friends have been able to obtain money and medical benefits from California, but why should retired football players be treated differently (under state law) than a guy who digs ditches? Or someone who works in a steel mill? Anyone who performs arduous physical labor which takes a toll on their body as they get older? No state should treat retired NFL players differently than other workers who toil in their state and suffer injury. But the NFL should – and it should be up to the PA to make sure that they do! . As you know and as I have learned, the manifestation of injuries suffered during an NFL career – including the sequelae of concussions – often takes place many years after playing days are over. The worker’s compensation systems of the various states are not geared to handle such latent injuries and untimely claims. The disability benefits offered under the Bert Bell/Pete Rozelle NFL Players Retirement Plan (also a creature of the CBA) contemplate the fact that injuries – or at least total disability – can take up to 15 years after retirement to manifest. That being the case, what has the PA done to advocate a better disability system which would include more generous and longer line of duty benefits? (That is, for guys who have impairment for injury but might still be working; and/or not totally disabled.) . Your letter mentions that one of the most important aspects of workers’ comp benefits is lifetime medical benefits. That is true; and they are invaluable. However, the benefits are only for the particular injured body part, not for unrelated or general medical issues. . If the PA really wanted to show leadership, they would convince today’s players that having lifetime medical benefits is much more valuable in the long run than having a present day multimillion dollar contract. (Oh, you would have to convince Agents like Tom Condon that they would get less money for actually having the best interest of their clients at heart – good luck with that!) If the PA was really concerned about retired players well-being, they would be fighting incessantly for lifetime medical benefits for retired players. They paid their dues. They made the game what it is today. The money is there. . Retired players shouldn’t have to count on a unique loophole in California’s laws to get the benefits they deserve. You should know that. . While I do not handle worker’s compensation claims and am not a member of the California Bar, it would seem to be unconstitutional to extinguish claims which have already been filed – should this bill pass. . Sincerely, John V. Hogan Disability Attorney Retired NFL Player Advocate Member of Fourth and Goal Proud contributor to Dave Pear’s Blog Sponsor, Buffalo Bills Alumni Association . . . . . And yes – we’ll be covering this topic in detail at our upcoming IFV Conference in Las Vegas May 3 – 5. We’ll also be covering equally important areas of interest to retired football players including the concussion lawsuits and both sides will be presenting their opposing points of view in the NFL Films lawsuit. Not engaged? Maybe Nolan Harrison III might want to spend less of HIS time and YOUR money on golf tournaments and actually start listening to retired players (after he stops talking about himself, of course!). .
Our friend Patrick Hruby has been busy of late. Patrick spent some one-on-one time with George Visger a few weeks ago to pull together one of the most detailed stories of George’s life in the NFL and after the NFL. During the NFL’s (and the NFLPA’s) PR run to this year’s Super Bowl, we’ve done our best to show the other side of football: The REAL side of what happens to many of their older players of the past. George has been one of the best examples of everything that the League and the Union can do to a retired player after he leaves the game damaged. While the League can toss aside a lot of other players more easily, George has a lot going for AND against him: He played in Super Bowl XVI for the winning San Francisco 49ers (he only got the ring to show for it) and left the season with severe brain injuries as a direct (and documented) result of playing for the NFL. He qualified for California Workers Compensation (in fact, George was probably one of the first and more prominent football cases back in the early 80′s) even though they fought him for several years before he finally won his case. But once again on the NFL side – even though George proved his case to Workers Comp and recently to Social Security Disability – George will still never receive one penny of direct disability or pension benefits from the League because according to their ridiculous rules, he didn’t play long enough. As a pre-1993 retired player, George had to have played for four seasons to be fully vested (post-1993 players “only” need to have three seasons to be vested for benefits). . And on and on it goes. For better and for worse.continue reading »
EDITOR’S NOTE:Fourth & Goal’s Bruce Laird sent in his comments and observations after reading the recent ESPN article from last Friday, Mixed Messages on Brain Injuries.(Click HERE to read the post that includes a link to the article.)Bruce and Sam Havrilak were also unceremoniously kicked out of the Baltimore chapter of the NFLPA for their outspoken and proactive activities for retired players. Here are some comments and observations from Bruce:
We started the second day of our IFV Conference last April in Las Vegas at the South Point with a panel discussing some of the latest information and studies on concussions, brain damage and current state-of-the-art treatments. Retired 49′er George Visger talks about his personal journey after football to recover some of his lost memory after 9 brain surgeries and years of living out of notebooks to help him remember his daily routines. Dr. William Duncan talks about the latest information on hyperbaric oxygen therapy (HBOT and the current efforts to advance legislation for HBOT in Washington on behalf of veterans and the general public. You can follow along Bill Duncan’s presentation by opening up his PowerPoint presentation while playing the video in the background. (We’ve also included a copy of George Visger’s slideshow below Bill Duncan’s presentation.) .
Posted with the express consent of Evan Weiner: THE BUSINESS AND POLITICS OF SPORTS .
Wednesday, 9 May 2011 . BY EVAN WEINER NEWJERSEYNEWSROOM.COM COMMENTARY . It is that time of the year when school boards have to get budgets in place for the new school calendar and the 2012-13 school year. The people who do the budgets and the people who vote on the budgets probably aren’t too worried about the 2012 high school football season but there will come a time when school districts will have to evaluate the value of fielding junior high and high school football teams. . There is evidence that football is causing major health problems for former players later on in life. Some National Football League players have been quite vocal about post-career problems, which include depression, thoughts of suicide, family problems, bankruptcy, homelessness and for some – like Dave Duerson and Junior Seau – suicide. . Following Seau’s death, a few former players went public with their post football plight on Dave Pear’s Blog. Pear has been fighting for years for the NFL to get medical benefits to pay for the injuries he says he suffered during his career. The injuries were numerous. . The comments should be noted by school boards and others with a passing interest in watching football whether it is Friday night high school contests or Monday Night Football featuring two NFL teams. . One-time Pittsburgh Steelers player Reggie Harrison, now known as Kamal Ali Salaam-El wrote, “Since we don’t have a crystal ball, we may never know what was going through Junior Seau’s mind. I have yet to entertain the thought of taking my life, but I can relate to the pain that a lot of us are going through. I take 10 methadone, 4 oxycodone and 2 ml of liquid oxycodone daily, and sometimes the pain still overtakes me. I just pray that I can hold on and lean on my fellow alumni if I feel that I can’t go on. My heart goes out to Junior and his family and I hope he has found Peace. I sure haven’t found it.” . Former Los Angeles Rams player Rick Hayes responded to the former Steelers by writing, “Kamal, I believe we played against each other in the L.A. Coliseum during our Rookie Year in 1974 Pre-Season. I, too, have been in pain today following the news of Junior Seau, and I find myself wondering about the possibility of CTE being the cause. For the last month, I have missed two Brain Scans and MRIs because of fear and pain. Several months ago, I finally detoxed from a daily dose of over 1000 mg of oxycodone via the Subuxone method. I think of suicide almost daily. There were other pills too. I feel much better now but still question the pain and sleep disturbances. . “In your note, I found the realization that these medications treat and cover our emotional traumas as much as our physical pain. And eventually, they stop working due to our Opioid Tolerance. I wish you, our fellow Former Players, and myself, a path through all this confusion. We are all one, but unfortunately the NFLPA is failing in providing us guidance and assistance. They are aware of our PAIN and ADDICTIONS. Now they are having SUICIDES thrown in their faces. When will they act truthfully and completely? The BLOOD is on the OWNERS and NFLPA’s hands.” . Janet McCoy speaking on behalf of her husband Mike, who played for Green Bay, responded with a different viewpoint: the position of a wife with a suffering husband. She said, “I received a call from my husband yesterday when he received the news of another player’s death. Since Mike is in assisted living for his dementia, all he could do was weep when I answered the phone. I knew why he was crying even before he spoke. How many tears do the players, wives and families have to shed before the NFL takes notice? I would like to suggest that the NFL have a plan payment for mental health therapy after this. Most men are not able to express themselves when this tragic diagnosis is received. Blessings to all our families.” . Former NFL players who have been broken down and left on the curb have a place to vent frustrations. The awful truth for the former players who are suffering is that the National Football league owners never let them down; their own Players Association is the culprit. The National Football League Players Association was so focused on just getting money that there were not secondary concerns about players’ safety or post career medical and insurance benefits. The owners and players collectively bargained agreements, and whether it was 1974, 1982 or 1987, the players’ negotiators — and in turn the players’ agents — wanted liberal free agency rules and money. . That was a mistake for about 97 percent of the players. The owners legally are not bound to give players extended medical benefits. That should have been a collectively bargained issue. Broken down players are living in the government safety net of Social Security Disability Insurance and Medicare. . It may be those are some of the lucky players who survived the funnel and made it into the National Football League. There are probably hundreds of thousands of players from the college, high school and semi-pro ranks who have suffered severe injuries and didn’t have a players association – albeit a weak group like the NFLPA – who never got a football pension or a partial medical plan and now are depending on government assistance for life-altering injuries. . But there really isn’t much about the plight of high school players who are suffering from football injuries that is documented. . High school football remains king in certain sections of the country but what would happen if former high school players suffering from devastating injuries started suing schools? Would school boards who are either self-insured or pay a huge premium keep the games going? . That is a difficult question but that question may come an awful lot sooner than anyone thinks. The National Football League, along with a helmet manufacturer, is being sued by hundreds of former players who contend that the league didn’t look after players’ health during careers and in post-career life. The lawsuit involves just the NFL and former players at this point. . Many people play football from the youth level on up to the pros. Many of those players will never have an opportunity to sue school boards even though the life-altering injuries took place on some high school football field. . Football has always been a brutally tough sport. . It seems the issue of players’ safety was settled in 1905 after President Theodore Roosevelt pressured a few college presidents into cleaning up the game after the deaths of 18 players in college games and the maiming of others. . But did President Roosevelt and the college presidents really clean up the game or was the game “properly” sanitized, with the injuries swept under the rug? . Until 2010, players’ safety didn’t seem to have been much of a priority on any level, whether it was high school, college or the National Football League. The NFL was very slow to get into the players’ safety issue, and the league finally started addressing head issues 105 years after President Roosevelt made the issue of player safety part of his presidency. . The NFL is urging all 50 states to take a very close look at head injuries suffered in high school and other football programs for children. Whether it is lip service or not, NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell sent out 44 letters to states urging them to enforce strict surveillance of head injuries. The league is continuing to beef up head injury protocol, but that is for future generations. . The league is not taking responsibility for past injuries. . But there is now a lawsuit and even though the players have directed their complaints against the National Football League, all of football is really on trial. That includes youth level, junior high school, high school, and college football. If the NFL and a helmet manufacturer lose this case, the whole structure of football will be shaken from the NFL down to kids’ football. The NFL depends on kids’ football as a feeder system into junior high school, then high school and colleges. The NFL gets ready-made players with years of experience. That could all change because school districts may decide running a football program is too costly in terms of insurance premiums and safety. . If the school boards get rid of football, Troy Aikman’s words last February, looking at the NFL’s future, may be prophetic: “The long-term viability, to me anyway, is somewhat in question as far as what this game is going to look like 20 years from now.” .
Thanks to our friend, Jennifer Thibeaux, we have a great collection of photographs from our well-attended Second Annual Independent Football Veterans Conference held April 20 – 22 2012 at The South Point Resort in Las Vegas. Videos and PowerPoints to follow shortly! .
Here’s the slideshow from flickr (there’s an enlarge button in the lower right hand corner of the slideshow screen if you want to view our slideshow fullscreen; just hit ESC to close fullscreen mode): .
With so many areas to cover this year at our Second Annual Independent Football Veterans Conference, we’ve adopted a broadcast format and assembled discussion panels with audience participation instead of individual speakers for the most part. Each panel will be broadcast as a separate topic covering the most important issues and questions retired players want to know. . Each panelist will be given an opportunity to talk approximately 5 – 10 minutes about their particular areas of expertise and interest after which 30 – 45 minutes will then be devoted to general discussions and questions from our studio audience and our online viewers. For a list of our panelists and speakers,clickHERE. We’ll be posting our Panelists’ Bios shortly. . All retired players welcome to participate in this live event but be sure to register for your entry pass today -clickHERE – and book you flight and room(s) at the South Point as soon as possible! The Conference is open to all retired football players by simply registering to attend. Media and other guests are limited and by invitation only –clickHEREto contact us. .
Each panelist will be given an opportunity to talk for approximately 5 – 10 minutes about their particular areas of expertise and interest, after which 30 – 45 minutes will then be devoted to general discussions and questions from our studio audience and our online viewers. For a list of our panelists and speakers, clickHERE. We’ll be posting our Panelists’ Bios shortly. .
March 4, 2012 .
On January 6, 2012, I met with Congresswoman Linda Sanchez at her southern California office with Mr. Mike Greenhaulgh, part owner/operator of the Sacramento Hyperbaric Oxygen Treatment center where I have been receiving treatments for the last two years, and Dr. William Duncan, President of the Hyperbaric Medical Association and Capital lobbyist. My 49ers teammate, Dan Bunz, and I also met with Senator Ted Gaines on December 27 and February 22, 2012. All the meetings were to address the legality of the NFL’s lack of benefits for its injured employees. Both Congresswoman Sanchez and Senator Gaines are looking into additional Congressional hearings on this matter. .
We are trying to gather solid information to ascertain the status of former employees/players of the NFL. For many years, we have been inundated with mixed information regarding the percentage of former employees/players who actually qualify for NFL retirement benefits, the percentage of former employee/players forced to draw SSI and life expectancy of former employee/players. With you being the President of the NFL Players Association, in charge of securing and overseeing the player’s/employee’s benefits, I am requesting data on the following:
What is the average life expectancy of a former NFL employee/player? Many years ago a letter was issued from the NFL encouraging players to take their retirement benefits early as most would not live to retirement age. This was followed up with a recent survey letters asking if we were still alive. I had been told for years that the average life expectancy of a former NFL employee/player was his late 50’s.
What percentage of all pre-93 employees/players who played in the NFL actually played long enough to reach the 4-year vesting threshold? From what I am reading now, the average NFL career is only 3.2 years. The numbers I was given when I played in 1980 and 1981 was 2-½ years. Surely the NFLPA maintains a roster of all players who were on active rosters at one time or another.
What percentage of employee/players have successfully been approved for SSI? After my 3rd evaluation at Dr. Amen’s clinic January, 2012, I was given a referral to file for SSI as Dr. Amen had me rated at 100% disabled due to frontal lobe dementia and damage to my temporal lobes of my brain.
If a player qualifies for SSI disability, how can he be denied NFL disability? How can the NFL’s disability requirements be higher than those of the general public?
What percentage of employee/players have successfully been approved for Medicare?
How many of Tom Condon’s clients were approved for NFL benefits as opposed to the general number of players who were approved (or declined)?
When did NFL employee/players begin filing for Workers Compensation?
What percentage of NFL employee/players have been approved for Workers Compensation?
Football damaged my brain and it didn’t have to happen
GEORGE VISGER, a former 49er, tells his story .
Due to the size and speed of today’s football players, the kinetic energy they generate during hits can have long-term consequences. Here’s my story: .
My football career began at age 11 in 1970 when I suited up for the West Stockton Bear Cubs, the first Pee Wee Pop Warner team fielded in Stockton, Calif. Of the 29 kids on the team, three went on to sign NFL contracts in 1980 (myself — sixth round, New York Jets; Jack Cosgrove — eighth round, Seattle Seahawks; Pat Bowe — free agent, Green Bay Packers). .
During my third year of Pop Warner, I was hospitalized when I knocked myself unconscious during a tackling drill. The exercise was a needless bull-in-the-ring drill that was more of a gladiator competition for the coaches’ amusement than a means of teaching useful techniques to young players. .
The coaches had us form a big circle about 25 yards across and numbered the 40 of us 1 to 20 on each side. When your number was called, you and the player on the other side with the same number sprinted directly at each other and hit head-to-head. .
Concussions followed throughout my high school career, though I never missed a game or practice. In my senior year, we went 11-0 and ranked No. 3 in California. I was selected to the All-America Top 100 Team. .
I entered the University of Colorado on a football scholarship in 1976 as a 6-foot, 5-inch 235-pound defensive tackle, majoring in biology. I was a starter for three years and suffered a number of minor concussions, but I never missed a play except after leg injuries. .
EDITOR’S NOTE:George Visger caught up with me on the phone this morning just before arriving at a job site. George is back at work trying hard to help his family recover from losing their home after suffering another near-fatal brain shunt failure last October. George is one of the most remarkably intelligent and resilient guys I’ve ever met and his tenacity comes through in everything he does. I often talk to him about what might have happened with his life had he never played professional football and sustained his life-altering brain damage. He starts off with an answer to John Hogan’s earlier post (click HERE to read John Hogan’s comment). .
From TheUnion.com: George Visger, a Grass Valley resident, shows his 1981 San Francisco 49ers team photo and Super Bowl ring. Visger has undergone nine brain surgeries since he stepped off the football field for the final time.