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. . 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. .
. 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. . Here’s Jennifer’s message along with her audio comments: . Robert, . 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). . . 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. . Jennifer .
. Click the PLAY button to listen to Jennifer’s personal commentary (13 minutes). .
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 . .
Here’s something a little lighter to start the week. . I was going through more of my old files and ran across my original signing contract with the Baltimore Colts back in 1975. My first NFL contract was for 3 years: 1975 for $30,000; 1976 for $40,000; 1977 for $50,000. They also included a $30,000 signing bonus (!) over 3 years ($20,000 upon signing in 1975 and an additional $5,000 in 1976 and in 1977). I was subsequently traded to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and then Hugh Culverhouse traded me off to the Oakland Raiders in 1979 after I had the nerve to ask for a raise! I played for two years with a broken neck with the Raiders when we won Super Bowl XV as the wild card team against the Eagles (Raiders 27 – Eagles 10). I was released by Al Davis after that year (more like kicked to the curb!). And yes – that’s a Riddell Helmet I’m wearing in my Topps card! . Since then, my family has gone through over $600,000 of our own money for my ongoing football-related medical expenses and surgeries with absolutely no reimbursement from the NFL and its various plans (other than the equivalent of two seat cushions and a $5.00 co-pay they sent me after my first hip surgery as part of their fantastic hip replacement program- clickHEREto read about it.) . We uploaded a copy of my first NFL contract to Scribd for easy viewing 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): . Dave Pear 1975 Baltimore Colts Contract .
. In one of the most public displays of just how far the Bert Bell/Pete Rozelle Plan and its overpaid NFL lawyers will go after a retired player during the process to access his earned disability benefits, US District Court Judge Ellen Hollander (District of Maryland) submitted her final 39-page ruling that very clearly details the many violations and fuzzy interpretations that the Plan and its lawyers have used over the years. Jimmie Giles (1977 – 1989: Oilers, Buccaneers, Lions, Eagles) had originally been awarded his Inactive Total & Permanent benefits (now called Inactive B) and the Plan and the NFL’s lawyers chose to aggressively deny his claim for Football Degenerative Total & Permanent benefits (now called Inactive A – got that?), leading to disability attorney John Hogan’s appeal on Jimmie’s behalf. The NFL’s law firm, Groom Law Group, publicly displayed some of the most egregious abuses of power and personal attacks on behalf of the Plan – all in their normal course of business-as-usual. At one point, they even tried to use the fact that Jimmie was “overweight” and it was pointed out to them that Jimmie’s teams had certainly never considered him overweight in his position as a tight end during his entire career! The Plan had been amended a few years ago to automatically accept an applicant’s Social Security designation as being Disabled, yet they continued to question and argue Jimmie’s actual “disability” going so far as to declare him still able to do “sedentary work” – as was also the case in Dave’s (and many others’) disability applications over the years. And their own Plan (the lawyers’) Questionnaire to their “neutral doctors” also continues to ask if a player was totally disabled as the Judge noted in her ruling. . It’s been a long wait for Jimmie and his family as they struggled to make ends meet during this drawn-out appeals process that dragged on through the summer after a lockout, a new CBA and everything else that went by over the past two years. But Judge Hollander appears to have taken a very thorough approach to address each of the arguments posed against Jimmie’s already well-documented case. (We uploaded a copy of this final ruling below as soon as it was available.) . One interesting observation: Jimmie Giles’ so-called Union, the NFLPA, has been nowhere to be seen at any time during Jimmie’s entire application process. No offers of assistance – legal or financial – during what has probably been the most difficult period of his life. In fact, the three alleged “retired players representatives” on the Disability Board had to have voted unanimously against Jimmie’s claim in lockstep with the three owners’ representatives in order for this case to drag out this far. Why has each member of the Board never been held accountable or sued for their ill-informed rulings? Would any AFL/CIO retiree in a REAL Union ever expect to be subjected to such an abuse of employees’ rights? . The ruling is posted on Scribd for easy viewing 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): . Jimmie Giles vs Bert Bell/Pete Rozelle Plan Final Ruling .
To all retired players: . On Wednesday, February 15, 2012 at 1:30 p.m. your case will be argued against the NFLPA in front of Judge Susan Nelson in St. Paul, Minnesota. The NFLPA filed a Motion to Dismiss and this hearing will be to determine if your case is dismissed. . If you will recall, in September and October of 2011, 47 former NFL players, including 27 Hall of Famers (26 of whom who are listed in the NFL’s official encyclopedia as 300 of the greatest players in NFL history), representing every decade in pro football since the 1940′s, filed a class action lawsuit against the NFLPA. The class representatives represent virtually every position in football, and every category of NFL player – including vested, non-vested, Hall of Famers, forgotten players, and legends of the game. The lawsuit was filed on behalf of all former NFL players and seeks to increase the retirement benefits of all players – vested and non-vested . The NFLPA is asking that your case be dismissed against them. We will argue that your case deserves to be heard by a jury. . It would be great if the Judge could see a courtroom of retired players who are all in support of having your case get heard by a jury. So if you are available to make it to Minnesota to attend the hearing, I ask that you mark it on your schedule and come show your support for your case. It is particularly important that you attend if you live locally. . The address is below. Please let me know if you plan to attend. Thanks. . Best regards, Shawn D. Stuckey, Esq. (former NFL player – New England Patriots, Minnesota Vikings, Tampa Bay Buccaneers) Wednesday, February 15, 2012 at 1:30 p.m. Courtroom 7B United States District Court 774 Federal Building 316 North Robert Street St. Paul, MN 55106 . (Eller/Bednarik et. al, v. NFLPA and Gault/McElhenney et. al, v. NFLPA) Case No. 11-CV-2623 SRN/JJG (D. Minn.) .
An old teammate and someone I considered a friend passed away over the weekend. Last week, it had been reported – erroneously – that Lee Roy Selmon had died of a stroke in Tampa (click HERE to read the story). But then I received a phone call this weekend from a mutual teammate, Council Rudolph, that Lee Roy had indeed finally succumbed a couple of days after his initial stroke. (Story HERE.) We all played for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in the late 70′s and Lee Roy went on to make it into the Hall of Fame, eventually settling into a post-football career as very successful restauranteur and philanthropist in the Tampa Bay area. .
But what has bothered me a lot after I first read about Lee Roy’s passing were a few journalists who insisted on comparing Lee Roy Selmon’s life to the late Dave Duerson (who committed suicide back in February this year). I have no doubt that Lee Roy and Duerson both died as a result of their brain injuries from professional football. But that is where the comparisons should end. .
Lee Roy and I were teammates in Tampa Bay from 1976 to 1978. Lee Roy was a truly nice guy and everyone liked him (unless you had to face him on the field!). However, to pass away at the age of 56 is way too young. We all know that concussions and strokes go hand-in-hand. His brother Dewey is also a nice guy and he played for the Buccaneers too. But Lee Roy was a very private person so it may be difficult to find out any of the details concerning his death. We can only hope that his family might share a little information about his stroke so that it may help many of us who are also facing a similar fate. .
Here’s one more piece on Lee Roy’s big heart and generosity: .
When I played football for the University of Washington Huskies and then went into the NFL first through the Baltimore Colts, on to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and eventually with the Raiders, we all wore Riddell helmets. Little did I know that Riddell was an official paying sponsor of the NFL and was the supplier of choice for each of the teams for many years. This relationship made a lot of money for Riddell because kids playing Pee Wee, high school and college football were led to believe that Riddell was the best protection money could buy. And why not? All their heroes in the NFL were wearing them. .
Here’s one of my Topp Raiders cards with that older 70′s helmet – definitely not close to anything like the young players have today. (And the older guys from the 50′s and 60′s played with those leather “helmets”!) We were all coached to use our heads and helmets as part of our play and most of the older players still talk about stingers and having their bells rung several times in every game. And the League even went so far as to create their MTBI (MILD Traumatic Brain Injury) Committee headed for years by their own appointed Dr. No: Dr. Ira Casson who continued to spew their propaganda all the way up to Congress as recently as a couple of years ago. .
Our friend, George Visger, played for two years with the 49ers, ending his short career with a Super Bowl ring and 9 subsequent, life-changing brain surgeries that followed. And no disability or pension benefits because he only played for two years so he didn’t even meet the Disability Plan’s 4-year hurdle that all pre-93 players needed to qualify! Do you think his helmet was good protection? . Bowing to heavy pressure in recent years, the League has been making changes to the rules to protect its players from the effects of concussions. They also fired Dr. No and replaced him with a real expert and advocate in the field: Dr. Rich Ellenbogen. But what about all those decades of denial while continuing to misinform its employees with fake studies? And they did that while also sending a false sense of security to school and college players making it all look and sound eerily like the long era when the tobacco industry was telling the public that cigarette smoking was harmless. .
And that is why Heidi and I decided to join a lawsuit that holds the League and Riddell responsible for hiding and perpetuating the long-term damages from concussions. The suit was officially filed this week and we’ve just uploaded a full copy to Scribd for easy viewing and to make it downloadable for printing. You can also click the Enlarge icon in the center of the menu at the bottom of the viewing screen to go Full Screen for easier reading (just hit the ESC key to close): . Full Concussion and Helmet Lawsuit Filing Aug 3 2011 . NOTE: I’m not a lawyer and I am not here to solicit your business. But if you want more information, my contact person on this lawsuit is: .
Jason Luckasevic Goldberg, Persky & White
1030 Fifth Avenue
Pittsburgh, PA 15219 (412) 338-9460 – direct .
EDITOR’S NOTE:Retired Bengal and Buccaneer Tony Davis just addressed some additional comments to Nolan Harrison III – and the NFLPA – on their current proposal for a Legacy Fund. Tony addresses more facts and issues that need to be discussed now rather than AFTER the CBA negotiations and contract are finalized. Each time a CBA was negotiated in the past, retired players were always kept in the dark regarding details and serious pension and disability reform never came about. It’s time to have a public dialog… NOW!
One of the more common questions coming in from recently retired players (the last 10 – 15 years) has been about severance pay. In our last post, both Lionel James and Burt Grossman mentioned that they weren’t even aware of any severance pay clauses. Irv Cross sent in a response through the Comments and we decided to put it up as a general post so it would be more visible to everyone. Thanks, Irv!
A lot of you out there probably still remember Gay Culverhouse’s passionate testimony in front of Congress last October. (You can read her testimony by clicking HERE.) During the time Gay Culverhouse was President of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, she witnessed firsthand many of the things that teams and team doctors do in treating their employees: the players. Dr. Culverhouse has been taking up the cause for retired players’ rights in their generally next-to-impossible process to apply for disability and pension benefits. After she began to realize the scope of this problem, Dr. Culverhouse recently started a new nonprofit organization – Gay Culverhouse Players’ Outreach Program – to provide assistance to any and all players who either need assistance in applying for their benefits or who have been turned down for benefits. (Click HERE to access their website.)
December ended up being a crazy busy month for Dave: 2 print interviews and 3 radio interviews so far. Dave’s primary focus has been on getting the word out on disability benefits and pensions, as well as answering some questions on the recent Parrish vs. Players Inc. GLA settlement.
… Jeff Pearlman did a story for Sports Illustrated/CNN on Dave’s personal regrets about having played football. That helped generate over a million hits this month for the blog. Click HERE to read that article.
Would you trust your brain or your money with this man?
We have no idea how anyone missed this little tidbit from the Congressional hearings on brain concussions in the NFL. The media rightfully focused on stirring comments made by former Tampa Bay Buccaneers’ owner Gay Culverhouse regarding the complete lack of advocacy for the players when it comes to brain injuries: The team doctors are hired by the owners and are employed to protect their investment; many of the coaches and owners often play golf with the team doctors in their free time. Tampa Bay Online covered Ms. Culverhouse’s testimony closely and the last paragraph in their story says a lot about just how seriously Roger Goodell plans on looking into brain concussions.
More keeps coming out on the touchy-feely meetings that Commissioner Goodell has been conducting with the “Alliance” in league cities across the country. The first meeting held in Dallas ended with Disability Attorney being invited – and then uninvited – by John Wooten (read about that HERE) and as revealed in a series of interesting e-mails that followed the meeting (read about that HERE). Then a dull second meeting in Chicago and a more interesting one last week in Baltimore. The spouses of several players with dementia confronted the Commissioner outside of the meeting room about being denied a voice in the process. And then the New York Times backed it up with the revelation that it was the Alliance who decided to close the meetings to everyone except retired players (read about thatHERE and HERE).
Behind the scenes, there’s been a flurry of e-mails and phone calls between the retired players and some members of the “Alliance,” discussing and rationalizing the secret decision to keep the meetings closed. And lots and lots of backpedaling and finger-pointing. We’ve got one interesting exchange that came from Alliance member John Wooten trying once again to explain his way out of another ridiculous situation. Tony Davis’ response is first and Wooten’s e-mail follows at the end. Tony is expressing an opinion that the majority of retired players all seem to share. So why weren’t the other players even consulted before the Big Brother Alliance decided for them?
Dave is probably in the middle of his hip replacement surgery at this moment and I’ll report in on his status a soon as we get word from his wife, Heidi. In the meantime, I was pleasantly surprised to see this post today on the Tampa Bay Bucs Fans’ blog, BucNews.com. Appropriately titled The Destruction of a Legacy, it’s probably as good an analysis as any I’ve seen anywhere on NFLPA Executive Director, Gene Upshaw. They highlight many of Upshaw’s accomplishments as a player and athlete, including his long fall from grace in recent years as the guy in the Ivory Tower who has completely lost his way in forgetting where he came from while leaving behind all the people who helped him get there. I’ve followed an old philosophy throughout my entire business career:
The little people you step on going up the ladder of success are the same people you see on your way down.