Patrick Hruby: Don’t Settle

18 September 2013

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.
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Don’t Settle
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Settle for Less
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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 the proposed $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.
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Still, Perfetto can’t help but feel torn. Torn that the league is just walking away, cash left on the nightstand. Admitting nothing.
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“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.”
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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 and denialist doctors know, and when did they first know it? – is a public health matter. Retired lineman Kevin Mawae likens the pending deal totaking 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.
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Or can they?
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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.
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Now is not the time to settle.
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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.
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Pull up the league’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.”

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Hypocrite of the Decade

6 September 2013

hypocrite

baby Deion
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What was it that Deion Sanders said a while back about how other retired players are whining because concussions don’t exist? Here’s our earlier post along with accompanying comments - click HERE to read our earlier post.
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EDITOR’S NOTE: While Evan’s most recent story looks mostly at MLB, there are obvious repercussions when you consider the upcoming HGH testing agreement between the NFL and the NFLPA. And the idea of just how much power each League has to snoop into all details of players’ lives becomes an interesting discussion. Posted with the express consent of Evan Weiner:
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“Fraudsters” and Surveillance and Sports

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Brain concussions. CTE. Alcohol and drugs. Take these issues that have only recently become more openly discussed along with 101 more ingredients in family life and you have a very complicated recipe for making a family work (or not). Family life isn’t easy at times as it is but when you stir in all these other layers from a career in professional football, life off the field becomes incredibly complex for most families. Watch as Brandi Winans (formerly married to the recently departed Jeff Winans – Bills, Saints, Buccaneers, Raiders 1973 – 1980; Jeff played with teammates Dave Pear and Gene Upshaw on the winning Super Bowl XV Raiders in 1980) and John Houser (LA Rams, Cowboys, Cardinals 1957 – 1963) share personal stories of family survival with the audience of their very different lives after football.
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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.
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Our good friend, Jennifer Thibeaux, (who can never be acknowledged enough for all of her advocacy work on behalf of retired players and who has managed to help us film each of our three Conferences so we can share them with the community at large) had declined our invitation to be up on stage with Brandi and John. But as she worked through the post-Conference task of editing and uploading all of this footage, her thoughts kept taking her back to her personal family experiences of having lived through the football life. Late last night, I received a personal message from Jennifer about how this has affected her own family and why she continues to help us get the message out to the other families in particular and to the fans in general.
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Here’s Jennifer’s message along with her audio comments:
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Robert,
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I took some time and collected my thoughts about my football experiences. This is by no means the end of my sharing…but it is my way to begin the process of getting it out of my head and into the universe properly. I have tried to characterize my own experiences so that I could give it the proper brand. The best I can come up with is, “Indefinite Hell“. While I was designing new bling tees for my Tee business, I was compelled to design this brand into a Tee (below – click image to enlarge).
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In Def Hell
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Has an interesting meaning both verbally and visually. After I made the tee, it was officially time to speak. I hope you can share these beginning thoughts with the DavePear.com family – my family – as we fight for human rights and against injustices. . Love you all with every ounce of my being …and I’m in this to win.
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Jennifer
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Click the PLAY button to listen to Jennifer’s personal commentary (13 minutes).
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In the past week, we’ve been flooded with a large-scale press campaign from the long-quiet NFL Alumni about a new drug trial that has an incredible range of claims ranging from antidepressant benefits to new brain stem cell generation. The problem we noticed was that this is a completely new drug in its earliest trial stages. In other words, it’s one more untested new drug in a large new flood of drugs that come into the marketplace on an almost daily basis. With all the players still joining the flood of concussion lawsuits, we decided to consult to some experts who have a background on conducting drug trials as well as with Jason Luckasevic (from Goldberg Persky & White) for some thoughts from a legal perspective. Dr. Xavier Figueroa and Jason Luckasevic rendered some thoughts that all retired players may want to consider before participating in ANY drug trial. (You can read all biographies by clicking HERE.)
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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.
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NFL propaganda for DummiesOur 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).
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And on and on it goes. For better and for worse. continue reading »

First of all, best of luck to Deion Sanders, who is such a brilliant genius that he doesn’t expect any cognitive problems in his future. Good luck with the child support, hope you don’t tell your next wife about the divorce in a text message – all the best in your stellar career and perfect NFL life.
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YahooSports

Deion Sanders doubts NFL’s concussion problem, says former players are looking for payday

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How Many Fingers?
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The NFL released its Official Sideline Concussion Assessment Test last year. After looking at this test, how many of you retired players out there might realize that you probably went off the charts with some of those hits you sustained years ago?
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We uploaded a copy of this Concussion Assessment to Scribd for easy viewing on our Blog and to make it available for downloading and printing. You can also click the Enlarge icon in the lower right corner of the menu at the bottom of the viewing screen to go Full Screen for easier reading (just hit the ESC key to close):
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NFL Sideline Concussion Assessment Test

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Posted with the express consent of Irv Muchnick from his blog Concussion Inc.:
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Harvard Hits the Concussion Inc. Jackpot: 10 Years, $100 Million From NFL Players for a Tiny and Misrepresented Study Glossing Over Brain Trauma

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This is one of the best chronologies of the NFL’s history of denial on the long-term effects of brain injuries and concussions. While it only starts with 1992 following the death of Mike Webster, we’re hoping that The Atlantic’s Ta-Nehisi Coates will research and develop an earlier timeline to show just how far back this coverup actually goes.
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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 - click HERE to 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:
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Jeff Winans BucsOnce 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.
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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.
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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.
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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.
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BrandiThen suddenly two days ago, Jeff was taken away from us.
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Life is short. Tell your family and loved ones how much you love them every day. Don’t live with regrets. Life happens unexpectedly.
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Brandi Winans
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Many of you may remember Andrew Stewart’s disability case that took nearly two years to get to court after it was first filed in 2010. They won the case resoundingly in June of this year, topped with a scathing ruling from Judge William Quarles who presided over the entire hearing. You may even recall the doctor the NFL called in to do a second opinion on Andrew’s injuries when they weren’t happy with the first doctor that they also chose. Without so much as seeing Andrew or reviewing his x-rays, he declared Andrew’s injuries to be totally unrelated to football. Then in the last paragraph, he reminds the Plan to send him another $500 check for his additional “review.” (You can read all of our earlier posts covering his case by clicking HERE, HERE, HERE and HERE.) FOX Sports A.J. Perez also covered the ruling in an article from June written right after the case closed:
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Stewart wins suit, earns NFL pension

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Today I was reminded again of the firestorm that followed a single comment I’d made several years ago: “I wish I never played football.” It was an interview I had done with Jeff Pearlman from Sports Illustrated back in December 2009. You can read the full article –  click HERE.
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At first, I took a lot of heat from many other football players – active and retired – with each of them interpreting my words differently. Never mind the rants from fans and armchair quarterbacks! But over time, I received a lot of support from my fellow retirees who understand all too well what I really meant. In fact, this spring, Hall of Famer Lem Barney said much the same thing:
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Hall of Famer Lem Barney wishes he’d never played football

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Posted with the express consent of Evan Weiner:

THE BUSINESS AND POLITICS OF SPORTS
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Tuesday, 15 May 2011
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BY EVAN WEINER
NEWJERSEYNEWSROOM.COM
COMMENTARY
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Steve Bartkowski wikipedia

Steve Bartkowski wikipedia


Steve Bartkowski, a newly elected member of the National Football Foundation’s College Hall of Fame, is one of hundreds of former National Football League players who are suing their former employers for what best can be described as negligence for allegedly not telling league employees, the players, of the possible long time impact on the body of playing football. Bartkowski, who played with the Atlanta Falcons and the Los Angeles Rams between 1975 and 1985, has an assortment of ailments that came from playing.
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Bartkowski “signed up” for the lawsuit for family reasons although the suicide of a former teammate Ray Easterling in April may have played a role.
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“I signed up basically for my wife,” said Bartkowski. “I just don’t want her having to wheel my chair towards the sunset so I can watch it set. I am more concerned about her and her quality of life if things should take a turn for the worst. I mean I got dinged as many times probably a lot of these other guys.”
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Bartkowski looks physically good for a man of about 60. But he has many scars from playing the game.
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“I think for the first time we are starting to see some of the effects, the long term effects. The game. I don’t know if we tracked injuries like they are tracking them now. And I think we have some evidence that people can point to and say this is what has happened,” said Bartkowski. “I am all for trying to make the game safer for guys who are playing or at least make them aware of what some of the long-term sort of debilitating effects can be.
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“What have I got? Well, I got two knees replaced after nine operations. I am sure there are some other things that are approaching. I have a bad hip, I got a left elbow that doesn’t work very good anymore. But I think we know what we sign up for. It is a physical game. You are in a car wreck every weekend that you play in and sometimes multiple car wrecks, so it’s part of the issue. I hope it doesn’t end up shaping the game going forward but I do hope the guys who need help get it from the appropriate sources.”
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The “appropriate sources” should start with the National Football League Players Association since benefits are collectively bargained between the owners and players. The NFLPA did a rotten job protecting the membership’s long-term future by asking for “Money Now” in 1982 and has always been more concerned about money than long time health issues. The players played games on awful surfaces in places like Philadelphia and Houston yet that didn’t seem to be a concern of the NFLPA.
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“I think so (referring to both the NFL owners and the NFLPA), those are the guys that are driving the bus on this,” said Bartkowski. “I think the NFL has acknowledged that there are some long tern effects from the game and I think that is the reason for some of the safety measures that Commissioner (Roger) Goodell is trying to implement and sort of evolved the game.”
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Players from Bartkowski’s era got as much as five years of medical benefits after they were cut or retired. Some of the Bartkowski era players are now living in the United States safety net and receive Social Security Disability Insurance and are on Medicare long before their 65th birthday.
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“I don’t think we even got five (years) when I was playing, it may be that now,” he recalled.
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“The new collective bargaining agreement, I think, covers a lot more than what the old one did.”
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So who is responsible for the care of the discarded players?
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“That’s a great question,” said Bartkowski. “I think the major thing in the (law)suit was how much did the NFL know about the concussion issue and when did they know it? I think that to me is really the issue. If there were guys out there doing the head banging and didn’t know the long term effects could cause early onset dementia and some of the other things that we are seeing out there in the retired player community, I think somebody is liable for that I would think. Not only the player when he signs his contract, when he signs up for that sort of a violent sport but at the same time the issue is what did they know and when did they know it?”
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Bartkowski played with Ray Easterling for three years in Atlanta between 1975 and 1977. Eastlerling shot himself to death in April. Two former NFL players Easterling and Junior Seau committed suicide within a month of one another.
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Easterling was 62 and seemed to have the same physical and mental health issues that face many former players. Reportedly he suffered from depression and insomnia. He underwent 25 different surgeries and had a hip replacement. In March 2011, Easterling was diagnosed with dementia in March 2011.
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“I had a former teammate of mine who was in the early stages of dementia, Ray Easterling. He just decided he wasn’t going to put his family through it and he ended up taking his own life” said Bartkowski. “I watched Ray going downhill. He was one of the hardest hitting guys. He never backed down on a drill and never backed down on a Sunday afternoon. He was a great teammate but I don’t think he had any idea what he was sacrificing later on in the latter stages of his life.
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“I talked to him, he asked me to write a letter in support of his case and I just looked at his chronology of his slide down the hill and was happy to write the letter and say what I saw. Ray was one of the smartest, sharpest guys that I ever teed it up with so to speak and to watch him where he couldn’t carry on a conversation was very difficult.”
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Memory loss is a common thread in the discarded players’ community.
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“I’ve got some of that too,” said Bartkowski. “It is hard for me to remember a lot of things.”
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The lawsuits have been filed, consolidated and will eventually go to court. Nothing is going to be settled anytime soon but the game of football figures to be put on trail.
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“I’m sure it will,” said Bartkowski of how long the lawsuit may take before it is finally settled. “There are extenuating circumstances in all these different cases. But I think if it does nothing more than move the game to safer turf and safer territory for the guys who love it and would have played it if they didn’t get paid to play it. I was one of those guys, I loved the thrill of Sunday afternoon and being out there and playing with the boys. I didn’t know what the long term effects might be and didn’t really care about them at that point in time.
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“If we can make the game safer and make it a little more easier on you in your twilight years then I am all for that.”
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Evan Weiner


Evan Weiner, the winner of the United States Sports Academy’s 2010 Ronald Reagan Media Award, is an author, radio-TV commentator and speaker on “The Politics of Sports Business.” His book, “The Business and Politics of Sports, Second Edition” is available at www.bickley.com or amazonkindle. He can be reached at evanjweiner@yahoo.com
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DANIEL G. AMEN, MD RESPONDS TO JUNIOR SEAU SUICIDE
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“These players need to know there IS help for them!”
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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.”
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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.
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“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.
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“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.”
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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.
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“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:
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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
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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.
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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
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“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.”
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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.
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