EDITOR’S NOTE: This is one of the more insightful pieces on the proposed settlement offer from NFL to the retired players’ concussion lawsuits. Re-posted from Sports on Earth with permission from Patrick Hruby. .
. Don’t Settle .
. Eleanor Perfetto watched her husband shrivel, and she watched him die.Near the end, Ralph Wenzel was a husk: a once strapping and energetic 225-pound former National Football League lineman, down to 145 pounds, eating mashed-up doughnuts, unable to walk or bathe himself, his mind unraveled by dementia. He was posthumously diagnosed with both Alzheimers and chronic traumatic encephalopathy, the latter neurodegenerative disease linked to repeated blows to the head; a scientist who examined his 69-year-old brain said it had shrunk to the approximate size of an infant’s. Wenzel’s dissolution was slow. Horrific. So Perfetto understands. Understands the pain. Understands the relief over theproposed $765 million settlement of the NFL concussion lawsuits, the eagerness to assist the former players in the most dire need — and their families, too — while calling off a long, draining legal fight. . Still, Perfetto can’t help but feel torn. Torn that the league is just walking away, cash left on the nightstand. Admitting nothing. . “This is a positive step, good for the players and families that need help now,” says Perfetto, a senior director at Pfizer and one of the over 4,600 former players and their family members who have sued the NFL. “But I’m very disappointed that the league gets to continue to deny the relationship between head injury and the illnesses that we see. They’re not taking on any culpability. And we will never know the timeline of just how long they have known this and the extent of them blocking it as much as they could. That will be kept secret unless some whistleblower comes forward in the future.” . When it comes to mixed feelings, Perfetto is hardly alone. Former All-Pro defensive back Bruce Laird worries that the settlement won’t be large enough to cover the brain trauma-related medical needs of all current and future players.Retired linebacker Scott Fujita believes that full NFL disclosure– what, exactly, did the league’s executives anddenialistdoctors know, andwhen did they first know it?– is a public health matter. Retired lineman Kevin Mawae likens the pending deal to “taking it 99 yards, but not getting that last yard”and taking “a little bit of our milk money back” from a schoolyard bully while getting a “promise that he won’t touch us again.” On the other hand, all three former players — Laird is a plaintiff in the lawsuits; Mawae and Fujita are not — are pleased that peers like former NFL fullback and Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis sufferer Kevin Turner will receive concrete financial assistance sooner rather than later. For that matter, so is Turner:in a recent USA Today editorial, he wrote that many of us also feared that a resolution would take years. That this agreement happened so quickly lifts an enormous burden off of our shoulders. We will get the care and security we need now, without being forced to wait for years of litigation to work its course. Indeed, NFL executives, plaintiff’s lawyers and mediator Layn Phillips all have framed the pending settlement as a choice between competing goals: plaintiffs can push for more money and evidence of league wrongdoing via a bruising court battle that could last years, or they can help men like Turner as quickly as possible. They cannot do both. . Or can they? . To borrow Mawae’s metaphor, the concussion plaintiffs don’t have to take a knee at the goal line. Nor do they have to abandon their brothers in need. They can help men such as Turner and continue to fight. They don’t need to take a crummy deal. They can demand something better. They should demand something better. They have more potential resources — more potential leverage — than commonly believed. . Now is not the time to settle. .
* * * . Start with the money. Suppose retired players had as much as $493.7 million available to them over the next eight years, earmarked for medical care and financial assistance. Would that change the settlement equation? Guess what: this money isn’t hypothetical. It’s real. Available now. Available since last year. A pot of cash hiding in plain sight, roughly equivalent to the $495 million NFL is scheduled to dole out over the first eight years of the proposed deal. . Pull up theleague’s current collective bargaining agreement.Go to page 78. Look for Section 5: Joint Contribution Amount. You’ll find an annual fiscal carve-out from the players’ share of football revenues, starting at $55 million in 2012 and increasing at compounded rate of five percent annually through 2020. Who controls this money? Where is it going? That’s where things get interesting. And frankly, a bit curious. According to the CBA:.
$22 million “shall be dedicated to healthcare or other benefits, funds, or programs for retired players as determined by the NFLPA”;
$11 million “shall be dedicated to medical research, as agreed to by the parties”;
$22 million “shall be dedicated to charities as determined by the NFL, including NFL Charities and/or Youth Football or successor organizations.”
Posted with the express consent of Evan Weiner: . . THE BUSINESS AND POLITICS OF SPORTS . BY EVAN WEINER COMMENTARY . The NFL job audition includes making the “suicide squad” rather than the special teams squad .
May 11, 2013
Examiner . The National Football League is open for business again. Players are on the field showing coaches that they can indeed play football even though the season is months away. The players showcasing their talents aren’t the normal, everyday players. No – these guys on the field are young guys trying to catch the eye of a coach and make a team and it doesn’t matter if they are first round draft picks or free agents hoping to just get to a training camp in July. . Not much is said about the long term health of these guys; they are just anxious to play football. Another one-time former football player, George Sauer, Jr. passed away at 69 years of age this week from congestive heart failure and Alzheimer’s disease. There may be some unintentional irony in Sauer’s passing from Alzheimer’s disease as he walked away from the New York Jets and the National Football League after the 1970 season because he found pro football dehumanizing and it “both glorifies and destroys bodies” as he described in a 1983 article in the New York Times. . Sauer was a wide receiver. . The young guys trying to impress the coaches in all likelihood never heard of George Sauer. But they probably know Tedy Bruschi who played for the New England Patriots (1996 – 2008) and is now a football commentator on ESPN. .continue reading »
EDITOR’S NOTE:Well, you know it’s definitely Super Bowl time when the NFL keeps trying to roll out as many new PR programs as they can leading up to the big game. And by now, most of you retired players have received the fancy new announcement for the NFL’s Training for Life program. A very expensive-looking package with a personal invitation from Troy Vincent (wonder how much they spent on that?). We thought there were Super Bowl tickets enclosed so Dave could go to that Free Health Screening Program they announced last week. Here’s that fancy envelope and a personal note from Troy Vincent!Click on the thumbnails to enlarge for your entertainment pleasure! . . . Retired Bronco Larry Kaminski didn’t waste any time – or mince any words – in sending a response to Troy Vincent back at the NFL’s Player Engagement Dept.: .
EDITOR’S NOTE: A long piece well worth the read from Patrick Hruby detailing the long history of denials and worse on the part of the NCAA when it comes to concussions. Many of the retired players may still remember (or not!) how concussions were largely ignored when you played in college and how that culture followed you into the NFL. The parallels to the League’s history of denial is not surprising, right down to their current battles with insurers over litigation coverage. (Patrick did a lot of research for this piece. There are a lot of links within this article that are also well worth clicking and reading.)
Re-posted with permission from Patrick Hruby:
January 16, 2013
Ramogi Huma wasn’t asking for much. Just for a chance to speak. An opportunity to share a few commonsense ideas about how to make college football slightly safer and more humane for its on-field participants, the young men putting their brains and futures at risk, in part, so that credit card companies and fast food taco peddlers can more easily reach potential customers. . continue reading »
EDITOR’S NOTE:Brandi Winans informed us earlier today that Jeff Winans (Buffalo Bills, New Orleans Saints, Tampa Bay Buccaneers 1973 – 1978) had just passed away late last week. For those of you who might not know about Jeff and Brandi’s long battle with the Bert Bell/Pete Rozelle Retired NFL Players Pension Plan over the years, we posted their story on our Players section earlier -clickHEREto read Jeff and Brandi’s battle with the NFL.The saddest part of Jeff and Brandi’s fight for his earned disability benefits is that it’s more common than fans and the general public realizes. As more and more players and their families continue to come forward to make their stories public, this is now being shown to be standard practice for the NFL and the NFLPA in always finding ways to consistently deny most retirees’ benefits. Here is Brandi’s most recent post: . Once in a while, someone walks into your life who takes your breathe away. Jeff Winans was the one who took mine away from the first time I saw him in a Tampa Bay Buccaneers game program. My girlfriend introduced me to him a few weeks later at a local bar. He looked like a “Greek God” with his black curly hair and big smile – and eyes that you could get lost in. He made my heart pitter patter, it was love at first sight. I was Cinderella and he was my Prince Charming. . My Cinderella life ended a few years later when Jeff was disabled from football at 30. I went to work while fighting the NFL for his disability pension. Then after a horrific life-threatening gunshot accident, came the unexpected blessing of finding out I was pregnant with our only son, Travis. . With medical bills piling up and being the sole support of our family, came Bankruptcy, then surviving an earthquake during one of Jeff’s amputations, later surviving a recluse spider bite, another amputation, six back and neck surgeries, a torn patella, too much to go into: All of it made our love grow stronger every day because we had each other. . A few years later, progressive behavior problems – which we realized later were due to multiple NFL head injuries – tore us apart. But separation, an unexpected divorce, and living 3000 miles apart, couldn’t destroy the love we had for each other. He still made my heart pitter, patter. We took things slow, becoming best friends again, rekindling dreams we had left behind. I was still Cinderella and he was still my Prince Charming. With a move planned back here in the next few months, the love of our son and his new-found family, nothing could go wrong. . Then suddenly two days ago, Jeff was taken away from us. . Life is short. Tell your family and loved ones how much you love them every day. Don’t live with regrets. Life happens unexpectedly. . . Brandi Winans . .
EDITOR’S NOTE:We received this first-hand report from retired player, Bob Lurtsema, who was one of the “uninvited players” who showed up last week along with Bob Stein and many of the Plaintiffs in the NFL Films lawsuit Status Conference. Each and every retired player needs to read Bob’s words of caution closely and send in their comments. . Fellow retired players - . I attended the court-ordered Status Conference in the Dryer v. NFL case on November 27 in Minneapolis to see what was up. What I saw was an attempted sell-out and ambush by the NFL and Michael Hausfeld to force Bob Stein and the original Plaintiffs to accept the NFL’s offer. The NFL and Hausfeld tried to pit players against players. . Hausfeld brought along 10 or so non-Plaintiff retired players to support him. They were part of a secret group he organized to try to control the Dryer lawsuit payments. We discovered that one guy they brought in had never even been an NFL player! He paid for their travel but refused to pay for the original Plaintiffs’ travel as required by his retainer agreements with them. . The original Plaintiffs who started the case were not even allowed in Hausfeld’s player meeting. When all the plaintiff attorneys met with all the players there, I was surprised the Magistrate openly pushed for the NFL deal (a very low offer of $50 million total), cut off Bob Stein who pointed out major shortcomings to the deal and then let Hausfeld ramble on to try and sell it. Right after that meeting, Hausfeld rushed out to confer with the NFL lawyers. . The NFL-Hausfeld proposal, opposed by all original Plaintiffs (Fred Dryer, Jim Marshall, Joe Senser, Dan Pastorini, Elvin Bethea, Ed White) and Bob Stein, stunk to me. Under the NFL-Hausfeld proposal, NO player would be paid for using his rights …ever! Each retired player would give up all his NFL-related publicity rights forever and any money would only go to the neediest of player charity programs. The only ones getting paid are the lawyers! . The proposal didn’t even have a guaranteed payment amount since all costs of opt-out player lawsuits against the NFL will be paid out of the settlement money! A very small group of players (Hausfeld’s?) would also be put in control of where the money goes. All of us would have to release our publicity rights (pictures, film of play, autographs) forever – and except for possible charity payments – will get paid nothing in the future. The Licensing Agency it set up looks just like the NFL Alumni Program – which LOST $5 million. So I don’t see what we’re getting for giving up claims to what Stein described as “the multi-billion dollar NFL Films vault” and over $150 million/year the NFL makes from using us in NFL Films. . The NFL-Hausfeld proposal will pay $42 million (after $8 million in legal fees are paid) over 12 years, with all of it going only to charity programs. That amounts to under $15/month for each of the 20,000+ players whose rights would also be signed away. Of course, the lawyers would get paid $8 million up front immediately. Looks to me like each of us will gain absolutely nothing from the NFL-Hausfeld settlement and only the NFL and the lawyers win. No wonder Bob Stein and all the original Plaintiffs think it’s an inadequate deal. After all, over those 12 years when the NFL would be paying out about $3.5 million a year, they would make over $1.8 billion using us in NFL Films! After that, they would then pay nothing more and use our rights forever! . Bob Stein and the original Plaintiffs all want a deal where every player who gives up his rights forever knows in advance what he would personally get for it, either in dollars or health care benefits …and that it should be enough to mean something. . I didn’t know why other players besides the Plaintiffs were there but it seemed they were trying to set up the illusion of a “support vote” from guys who were not even Plaintiffs, all without opening the meeting to ALL retired players, just to pressure the original Plaintiffs to go along. Other retired players did not even know about this Status Conference and I only heard about it at the last minute. Hausfeld’s guys were mostly for the deal but ALL the original Plaintiffs and Stein opposed it. I still don’t see the point of the Status Conference but I do see the NFL-Hausfeld deal as bogus and completely one-sided. . I am against accepting it and wanted all of you to know why. But it should be your own call to make. . Bob Lurtsema Baltimore Colts, New York Giants Minnesota Vikings, Seattle Seahawks 1967 – 1977 . .
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:
Posted with the express permission of Patrick Hruby and with acknowledgement toSportsEarth.com. .
by Patrick Hruby August 29, 2012 . The hotel restaurant was closed. So we ate at the bar. It was early August, and I was in town visiting a former NFL lineman. Call him Max. It’s better not to use his real name. . During his time in football, Max was hit in the head. A lot. He since has endured nine brain surgeries. He has trouble remembering things. Serious trouble, like the main character in the movie “Memento.” Max and I were both carrying notepads, but for different reasons. .continue reading »
Herb Adderley, John Mackey, Mike Webster, Andre Waters. And the carnage goes on and on and on. . Unless and until the 21st Century NFL undergoes a sea change – a total paradigm shift toward actually caring for their beloved 20th Century warriors – I have no interest in being associated with the NFL in any way, including the erstwhile noble idea of its Hall of Fame . I am, however, keenly interested in contributing to bring into the American public’s consciousness the unbelievably shameful travesty known as the “NFL Retired Players Pension. . I want to bring lasting attention to the deplorable and deliberate manner in which the NFL owners have set up a “maze” of red tape designed to prevent the hundreds – if not thousands – of living former NFL warriors from “having a life after football. .continue reading »
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.” .
DANIEL G. AMEN, MD RESPONDS TO JUNIOR SEAU SUICIDE .
“These players need to know there IS help for them!” .
NEWPORT BEACH, Calif. (May 3, 2012) — While Junior Seau’s apparent suicide breaks the hearts of football fans nationwide, Daniel G. Amen, MD pleads with other football players and athletes that “there’s help from chronic traumatic brain injuries, depression, irritability and memory problems they suffer.” .
Dr. Amen, founder and CEO of Amen Clinics, Inc., and two-time Board Certified psychiatrist has conducted three clinical studies with 115 active and former players from the National Football League. Each study shows that it’s not only possible, it’s likely, that with a brain-directed health protocol, significant improvement can been experienced in decision making, reasoning, depression, mood and memory. .
“Junior Seau was a legend. But even legends cannot escape the ravages of chronic brain damage,” said Dr. Amen, who is the lead researcher on three published studies on NFL players and brain damage. He is also a leading researcher on a brain imaging study called SPECT (single photon emission computed tomography) and has looked at over 73,000 scans. .
“My message to the football community is that players need to get their brains examined before they play and after they stop and at any time they get a concussion. I often say how do you know unless you look.” .
Dr. Amen began studying the effects of football on brain health in 1999 when Brent Boyd, a former NFL player came to the Amen Clinics. After Anthony Davis came to the clinic in 2007 his work with active and former NFL players took off. He has partnered with the Los Angeles Chapter of the Retired NFL Players Association to performed the world’s largest brain imaging/brain rehabilitation study. .
“Our studies found significant evidence that, fortunately, there are treatment protocols that can often reverse many of the symptoms caused by brain damage and improve brain function.” The studies include: .
1. Effects of Elevated Body Mass in Professional American Football Players on rCBF and Cognitive Function, Transl Psychiatry (2012) 2, eK, doi:10.1038/tp.2011.67 .
2. Impact of Playing Professional American Football on Long Term Brain Function. Journal of Neuropsychiatry and Clinical Neurosciences, J Neuropsychiatry Clin Neurosci 23:1, Winter 2011, 98-106. .
3. Reversing Brain Damage in Former NFL Players: Implications for TBI and Substance Abuse Rehabilitation. Journal of Psychoactive Drugs, 43 (1), 2011 Online publication date: 08 April 2011 .
“Junior may have damaged his pre-frontal cortex which is responsible for decision making,” Dr. Amen said, also noting that Seau was arrested in 2010 for domestic violence which also may have been a result of poor decision making. “Brain trauma symptoms can appear decades after the playing days and can include dementia, memory loss, violent behavior, obesity, mental illness and depression. And unfortunately, suicide is more common in people who have experienced brain trauma.” . The Amen Clinics, Inc. (ACI) was founded in 1989 by Daniel G. Amen, M.D. Amen Clinics now has locations in Newport Beach and San Francisco, California, Bellevue, Washington and Reston, Virginia (www.amenclinics.com). ACI specializes in using detailed clinical histories, brain imaging, and lab testing for innovative diagnosis and treatment for a wide variety of problems, including weight issues, ADD, anxiety, depression, autistic spectrum disorders, and memory problems. Dr. Amen is a physician, child and adult psychiatrist, brain-imaging specialist, and Distinguished Fellow of the American Psychiatric Association. Dr. Amen has authored five New York Times bestsellers “Change Your Brain, Change Your Life,” “Change Your Brain, Change Your Body,” “Magnificent Mind At Any Age,” “The Amen Solution” and his latest “Use Your Brain to Change Your Age.” ACI is headquartered at 4019 Westerly Place, #100, Newport Beach, California. For more information, call (888) 564-2700. .
Posted with the express consent of Evan Weiner: THE BUSINESS AND POLITICS OF SPORTS .
Wednesday, 2 May 2011 .
BY EVAN WEINER
NEWJERSEYNEWSROOM.COM COMMENTARY . I didn’t know Junior Seau although I met him on the day he was drafted into the National Football League in 1990 and probably interviewed him after a football game a few times more. From all accounts, he was a fearsome presence on the football field; a killer who at times could control a game defensively. .
But Junior Seau didn’t live to be a ripe old age and until an autopsy is performed and a police investigation is complete, there is no need to speculate about the circumstances surrounding Seau’s death other than he was found dead of a shotgun wound on the morning of May 2, 2012 about 22 years after the San Diego Chargers football team called his name at the annual National Football League event. .
The gun wound should strike a nerve among former players. It seems that is becoming a way of life and death among NFL alum suffering from life altering injuries that probably came from years and years of absorbing hits on the football field. People do hear about former NFL players but there seems to be no tracking of high school and college players who years after their football careers ended killed themselves. . continue reading »
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?
We have recently read the expose of George Martin and the NFL Alumni Association written by A. J. Perez and Alex Marvez for FOX Sports. We have also read the accounts of the Alumni’s press conference from the Super Bowl; and of their Board of Directors’ support for George Martin. .
I am not a former player and often wonder why and how I got involved in their issues. However, getting to know – and work with – many retired players over the past few years has been a personal and professional highlight of my life and career. I am proud to call many retired players my friends and most of them are a tremendous source of inspiration for me. .
That said, I have thought that I have had something worthwhile to contribute to the cause of retired players and their families – specifically my expertise in disability law. And it is with those thoughts in mind that I became actively involved in helping the NFL Alumni transition from Caring for Kids to a role as the primary advocate for the needs of retired players, their families and their widows. .
You will recall that several years ago, NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell visited several cities to meet with RETIRED PLAYERS ONLY to try to learn what was on their minds. Many of you will recall that Dr. Eleanor Perfetto was not allowed to attend a meeting on behalf of her husband, Ralph Wenzel, who suffers from dementia. You may also recall that I was allowed into the meeting in Dallas – but not allowed to speak. I was very skeptical about what Commissioner Goodell and the NFL were up to. .
Not long after, I got a call from Bruce Laird, President of Fourth and Goal – one of the first retired player advocacy organizations who were raising money on behalf of – and advocating for – retired players. He told me that Goodell had called him and asked if Fourth and Goal would work with the NFL Alumni to refocus their efforts towards retired players and become one unified and representative advocacy organization. As we envisioned it, we would have one truly representative group that would speak on behalf of retired players’ issues – from intellectual property rights to significant pension improvements and much needed disability reform – with both the League and the Union. .
It was a tremendous effort on the part of many men to establish the new Alumni Association and hire George Martin as their executive director. Many of us involved in the effort took a lot of heat from all sides. The PA would not have anything to do with this, as they felt (as many others did) that this was a ploy by the NFL to curry favor with retired players as the League and Union moved towards the new CBA. While the men of the PA had little regard for what I had to say about needed disability reforms (which would only have served to help their members), I continued on, hoping that I would have the opportunity to discuss cases, problems, ideas and solutions with the League or various owners. I pressed on, hoping that Bruce Laird, Jeff Nixon and others well-versed in the pension plan, the CBA and all issues facing retired players, would also have the chance to meet face-to-face with the CBA decision makers. .
It never happened. .
Fast forward to where we are today – a CBA that did not come close to adequately addressing the needs of retired players. As all of you know, those failings are the subject of a lawsuit pending in Minnesota against the Union. While the League and Union think they have a 10-year period of “labor peace” to look forward to, they will clearly be kept busy by retired players who continue to feel left out, bruised and abused – in light of what they did to make the game what it is today and in light of the almost unimaginable amount of money the NFL is now generating. .
The Legacy Fund (anyone get their checks yet?) is but a drop in the bucket of what was needed. The League and Union are now scrambling to decide what to do about the disaster of leaving widows out of the picture. .
Which brings me back to the Alumni Association. What have they done for retired players and their families? Were they a significant role-player in the CBA as we had hoped? Are retired players happy with what they are doing? Has the membership grown or decreased since George Martin was hired? (We hear from a former employee that membership was down significantly but we really don’t know.) I do know that there are a number of NFL cities where there is no longer an Alumni chapter – including here in Atlanta – where there are between 700 and 800 retired players. .
The Alumni has had three major programs – all highly touted: the Satcher Leadership Institute of Morehouse School of Medicine and their mental health awareness program; their partnership with the Gay Culverhouse Player Outreach Program; and the Long-Term Care Insurance program. All of them great, helpful programs. But they weren’t really the Alumni’s – they were the League’s and the Alumni’s role in them appears to be little more than lip-service. .
I am sure that Commissioner Goodell and the League expected the Alumni to be self-sustaining by now. At least when we started down this path, that is what those of us at Fourth and Goal had expected. To the best of my knowledge, they are not. They have been the beneficiary of millions of dollars in “interest-free loans” from the League. .
The point of this letter is that at this point in time, I don’t think it really matters what I think of the Alumni or George Martin’s leadership. I don’t think it really matters what the majority of retired players think about them. And although the Board of Directors is supposed to be in charge, I don’t think it really matters what they think, or how much confidence they have in George Martin and the Alumni’s direction. .
The only one who really matters is Roger Goodell. Is he willing to continue to invest multiple millions of dollars to try to prop them up on their feet – or is it time to close the checkbook and see if they can stand on their own feet? .
Retired Player Advocate . . .