NFL Nation: NFL concussion settlement 082913
Pearson, however, wonders if the $765 million agreement is enough.
“It helps players immediately,” Pearson said. “There are so many players that need help and so many that are suffering in that regard, so it’s good. But also at the same time, I don’t think it’s enough money. How can you say it’s not enough? Well, look at the revenue generated by the league. This is a payout over 20 years, so that $765 million comes down to $24 million a team. That’s a drop in the bucket to the NFL. I don’t know that we would’ve won the case. I think it would’ve been hard for the players to prove it in court … but still, if the NFL was willing to settle we should’ve held out for a little more, knowing that the revenues for the NFL will increase through the term of the settlement significantly.”
Like fellow Ring of Honor member Cliff Harris, Pearson is happy to see that former players in dire need of help will receive it.
Pearson, 62, said he has some health issues, like memory lapses and pain in his right knee. This summer he attended a banquet honoring Harris in Little Rock, Ark., with teammates Roger Staubach, Charlie Waters and some others, and noticed they all had some sort of issues.
“You don’t notice it until you’re around the guys, because we’re so used to dealing with pain and discomfort and are so used to overcoming things that our mental threshold is greater than others in dealing with it,” Pearson said. “Plus, we know why it’s happening. We know why Charlie’s had the post-career surgeries he’s had. He gave up his body for the game.
“I was in the training room with Charlie, and he’s taking shots in his ankle, knee and shoulder just to play the game that Sunday. You’re not thinking about that might be a problem. You’re thinking, ‘Yeah, way to go Charlie. That’s a teammate there. He’ll do anything.’”
Pearson said the lack of education and protocol led to players suffering more. He estimated he had at least one concussion a year, even if he was never officially diagnosed with one.
“I’m not saying if we were educated we wouldn’t have played,” Pearson said. “I probably still would’ve played knowing the ramifications, because I love the game. But if we were better educated then, we might be dealing with it a lot better and recognize the symptoms. When we played we were the judge and the jury, because when we got hurt it was up to us. Coach (Tom) Landry asked you, ‘Can you go?’ He didn’t go to the doctors and say, ‘Can he go?’ He came to us and asked, and you said yes, no matter what the circumstances might be.”
One of the hardest-hitting safeties in NFL history, Harris played for the Cowboys from 1970-79 and won two Super Bowls.
“I’m glad they’ve done something to help either the players that need it now or that are going to need it,” Harris said.
Harris had not read the settlement and was reluctant to comment further on Thursday night. All of the NFL’s retired players are eligible to receive benefits from the settlement. According to the settlement, $675 million of the settlement will be given to former players and families of deceased players afflicted with cognitive injury. Another $75 million will be spent on baseline medical exams, and the league will fund research and education to the tune of $10 million.
Tony Dorsett, who was one of at least 10 Pro Football Hall of Famers involved in the suit, could not be reached for comment, but told the Associated Press, “Football has been my life and football has been kind to be, but when I signed up for this I didn’t know some of the repercussions. I did know I could get injured, but I didn’t know about my head or the trauma or things that could happen to me later in life.”
Co-lead counsel for the plaintiffs, Christopher Seeger, called Cowboys owner and general manager Jerry Jones a “hard ass,” in the negotiations. On KRLD-FM (105.3 FM) before Thursday’s preseason finale against Houston, Jones spoke about the settlement.
“The players that have been impacted, and the players that could be potentially impacted, will get the money rather than the attorneys,” Jones told the station. “There wasn’t a ‘Who’s right?’ or ‘Who’s wrong?’ here. It’s just that the money will go to the ones that need that. I’m excited that it’s going to result in substantive benefit to the players who helped make this game what it is today.”
Garcia, who played in the league from 1995-2003, was one of more than 4,500 plaintiffs in the concussion lawsuit filed against the NFL in which a $765 million agreement was announced Thursday.
Garcia said the case was settled because the NFL withheld information about the long-term effects of head injuries.
"It's more the principle of it," said Garcia, a sports-talk radio host for WFNZ-AM in Charlotte. "I think it's more of an acknowledgement that there was responsibility and some negligence or they wouldn't be giving this money."
Garcia, 41, estimated he would receive about $60,000 from the settlement after taxes.
"I give the NFL credit. A lot of times it's hypocritical what their stances are," Garcia told the Observer. "This is the first time you can look and say, 'They're putting their money where their mouth is.'
"I've had concussions and learned a lot more about concussions since I retired. There is a responsibility the NFL had to inform. I think they're doing a lot more, and that's a good thing."
It was fitting since the son of the late, great Pittsburgh Steelers center Mike Webster feels that way on several levels.
“I hope this settlement is the NFL saying, 'We're taking concussions seriously. We're going to keep working on it,'” Webster said. “The worst-case scenario for me is the NFL saying, 'We paid you money. Now go away.'”
Mike Webster, a Hall of Famer and stalwart on the Steelers' Super Bowl-winning teams in the 1970s, died in September 2002 after years of suffering from dementia, depression and other neurological disorders associated with repeated head trauma.
He was at the forefront of NFL players diagnosed with chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE) after his death, and CTE had been linked to Alzheimer's disease and depression.
Garrett Webster, 29, has made the study of brain injuries part of his life's work. He is the administrator of the Brain Injury Research Institute in Chicago and spends his time there while also living in Pittsburgh.
The NFL has not worked with the Brain Injury Research Institute in the past, Webster said, and he hopes the lawsuit signals a change in its approach. He said retired players have to put aside any rancor they feel toward the NFL and work with the league in promoting awareness and the study of brain injuries.
“Everybody needs to, on some level, work together,” Webster said. “NFL players are getting bigger, stronger and faster. It's a long-term issue and it's not just football players.”
The lawsuit offered some personal validation for Webster, who often had to care for his father while he was growing up. He said the motives of his family and supporters were often questioned after the Webster estate successfully sued the NFL in 2005 because of disabilities Mike Webster sustained from playing football.
“It felt like for the longest time we were making stuff up, that we were after money,” Garrett Webster said. “I would give $200 million for my dad to be back here and be alive. There's no price on the hell you go through with this.”
"From what the first offer was to where it is now, I think it’s a fair deal," Moon said Thursday at Century Link Field. "The thing that I’m happy about is they are going to take of some of these guys that are really affected by this. They will do the baseline testing and get these guys the help that they need, more so than the money.
As part of the settlement, the NFL has no admission of liability that the plaintiffs injuries were caused by playing football.
Moon, 56, is now a broadcaster for the Seattle Seahawks. He played six seasons in the Canadian Football League and 17 seasons in the NFL, spending time in Houston, Minnesota, Seattle and Kansas City. He was a nine-time Pro Bowl selection and was voted in the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 2006.
Moon was not part of the lawsuit, but concussions were an issue during his NFL career.
"I had six of them, so I’m just waiting," he said. “I have a little short-term memory loss, but you don’t know if it’s because of that or just the fact that you’re getting older. I know people who’ve never been hit in their life and can’t remember what they did yesterday, so I don’t know.
"That was one of the reasons I was skeptical about getting involved, just because I don’t know if it affected me. It could affect me down the road."
Moon recalls part of what happened when he suffered his final concussion.
"It was 1992 in Pittsburgh," said Moon, who was the quarterback for the Houston Oilers at the time. "There’s about 20 minutes of that game that I still don’t remember. I got really sick and really nauseated and really cold. They wrapped me in all these capes and finally just took me off the field. I didn’t know what the heck was going on."
Moon is in favor of the recent NFL rules changes to try to cut down on concussions, including the rule this season against using the crown of the helmet to hit another player outside the tackle box or more than 3 yards downfield.
"I know it’s been tough on the players to try to adjust to it," Moon said. "They’ve been taught to play the game a certain way, especially at this level. It’s hard to teach an old dog new tricks. The players bitch and moan about it, but over the long haul in the next five years it’s probably all for the good."
"Every day I thought about it," said Farr, who played from 1994 to 2000. "Here’s the thing and this is why I don’t know if I’m right or wrong: I don’t think I have any problems. I don’t think I’m having the same problems that this guy is and I don’t want to be one of those people that is trying to get in on some case just to get paid. I’d rather go out and work hard for it, you know what I mean? I’d feel bad if I went up there and I don’t feel like I have symptoms, I might be taking money away from a guy that does.
"That’s why I wasn’t a part of it. But the thing that scares me about the settlement and everything else, I don’t know what’s going to happen to me next year or what’s going to happen to me in 10 years. I don’t know if this is the way Junior Seau felt 10 years before he shot himself, so that’s the only concern."
The order from U.S. District Judge Anita Brody outlined a proposed $765 million settlement that has drawn mixed reaction from current and former players. It will pay about a third of the living former players, but Farr isn't one of them.
Farr retired after a seven-year career in which he went to a Pro Bowl and started for the Super Bowl XXXIV champions. Today, he's a sports talk-show host on ESPN radio in St. Louis and serves as the color analyst for Rams game broadcasts. He has pain in his knees and joints and gets an occasional migraine headache, but he said he has no noticeable signs of lingering concussion symptoms from head trauma.
When I spoke to Farr about the issue Thursday evening, he brought up an interesting point about the timing of the agreement. He understands the basics of the deal, but I got the sense he felt like it was a little too easy, like the NFL was hiding a secret that would make this agreement seem like a bargain.
"It just seems kind of, all kind of right that it would all come out right now before you get exposed," Farr said. "You might as well settle it before you get embarrassed and exposed. So, I don’t know. That’s the only thing I’m concerned with. I’m happy for the guys that are going through things and they are going to get that money and that care, but I really, really want to know what the NFL is not telling me about me."
I've known Farr for a long time and, in the interest of full disclosure, I consider him a friend. After talking to him, it's hard not to wonder if he's not far enough removed to see the big picture or what type of ailments his future may hold.
Playing defensive tackle meant a collision with another large man on every play, collisions that might be categorized as concussions but at the time were just thought of as part of the game.
"Back in the day, when concussions were funny and they’re not funny now; concussions were when you got knocked unconscious," Farr said. "If you are unconscious, you probably have a concussion. Now they’re saying you feel like you got your bell rung and that’s a concussion, or if you say you feel dizzy, you’ve got a concussion. Well, that’s almost every snap. That’s just the way it went in the trenches, it was just an accepted part of the job."
As Slim Charles from "The Wire" might say, "the thing about the old days -- they the old days." Today's NFL has evolved to where doctors stand on the sidelines and have final say about whether a player has a concussion and can return to a game.
Farr jokes that, without the benefit of those cross-checks, he either had 20 concussions or none at all. The reality? The answer is probably closer to 20 than zero. Even with that knowledge, Farr opted not to join fellow alumni in the lawsuit.
"I had some very real talks with friends and family," Farr said. "I said ‘You guys need to tell me, am I crazy? Tell me because I might not know. Do I forget things?’ I think I have a pretty good grasp on who everyone is and phone numbers of where I live and stuff like that, but I don’t know. As of right now, I didn’t and don’t feel like I need the NFL to take care of me post-career."
Here's hoping it stays that way.
It also meant that Lurtsema took nowhere near the in-game toll that some of his Vikings teammates did in the 1970s. Now, he says, football doesn't owe him anything. Still, Lurtema added his name to the list of plaintiffs in the class-action suit against the NFL out of support for former teammates such as Carl Eller, who for years has been at odds with the league over marketing revenue for retired players, and Wally Hilgenberg, whom doctors believe died in 2008 from the repetitive brain trauma that accumulated during his 16 years in the league.
Now that the retired players have settled with the NFL, to the tune of $765 million, Lurtsema said the money needs to get to the right places -- to the families of players such as Hilgenberg and to new research programs Lurtsema hopes can mitigate the impact of brain trauma on future players.
"That's why you have to have a board that can direct where the money goes," Lurtsema said. "That's a hard call. It's a very hard call. They've got to have a strict board to set up the rules."
Lurtsema estimates that about 20 of his former teammates were involved in the lawsuit, but he's not of the opinion that the money should be split equally among the plaintiffs. Preference, he said, should be given to those players who "helped create the pot of gold" -- the ones who put in more time in the league or have suffered more injury from the game. He also is interested in new research such as the brain-imaging work he's taken part in with California doctor Daniel Amen, who believes he can help retired players improve brain function and reverse concussion symptoms through a strict treatment protocol.
While many believed the players could have gotten more from the NFL, the money is certainly significant enough to do some good. The key now, Lurtsema said, is to be responsible with it.
"I want the money to go to the people who really, truly need it," Lurtsema said.
The agreement, announced Thursday, will compensate victims, pay for medical exams and underwrite research. New York Giants owner John Mara fielded questions from reporters before the preseason finale against the Patriots. Here's the full Q&A:
Your reaction to the settlement?
"I think it’s a good settlement, primarily because it will help get money to people who need it much faster than had we gone through a long litigation, with appeals and discovery and everything else. It could have gone on for eight or 10 years. This hopefully will get some money to some people who could use some help."
The $765 million number is a large amount.
"It’s a big number, to be sure, but I think it’s a fair settlement. I’m just pleased that we’re going to be able to help some people that are in need right now."
"No, and I’m not going to get into that aspect of it. I just feel good about the fact that there are some former players out there who are not in good condition right now and we’re going to be able to help them. I heard a report today that it comes out to less than $200,000 per plaintiff, but that’s not the way to look at it because most of these plaintiffs are not going to be eligible. There’s going to have to be a showing of some cognitive impairment, and there are some players who are in that condition, and those are the guys who deserve the money. ... You have to make a showing, according to the way I read the judge’s order, a showing of some cognitive impairment, and that gets determined by independent doctors that both sides will agree on, and it’s overseen by the court."
Some players feel the number could have been bigger.
"You can always say that about any number, but if we had gone through the litigation process here, it would have taken years. I thought the league, we felt like we had some very strong defenses, so who knows how that would have come out. The only thing for certain is it would have delayed for many years the chances of any of those plaintiffs getting any money out of this, and some needed [the money] sooner rather than later. That to me is the best part of this."
Was there pressure on you and the league to not let this go to court because you don’t want a lot of former players going onto the stand?
"You always have that risk when you go into litigation. Fortunately there was a willingness on both sides to come to an agreement, and a judge that was pushing the sides to settle the case, and a mediator who was very effective in bringing the sides together. As a result, we have a deal that is very good for a lot of these players that can use some help."
It cost the owners a lot.
"It will, but I think it will be money well spent."
Turley, who appeared on "The Waddle & Silvy Show" on ESPN 1000 in Chicago, also believes the settlement number ultimately could go up.
Waddle & Silvy: Was your name on this lawsuit?
Kyle Turley: Yes, I was. I was a part of the plaintiffs, if you will, in the case, one of the first guys to sign on.
W&S: What do you make of the resolution?
KT: First, go back, it was important this case be filed. I can pretty sure guarantee that none of us would be the wiser on concussions today had this lawsuit not been brought. So it’s a great day, I think, finally -- although the NFL wants to say this is not an admission of guilt -- I don’t think you throw $765 million at a problem that doesn’t exist. This is something that has plagued players in the National Football League for too long, and players at all levels in the sport of football and in sports in general and the general public in my opinion have gone in the dark for too long about this issue. I think with this settlement, I think that we’re seeing -- in what I know about the details -- a great start to mending this issue and addressing this problem.
W&S: How did the players decide to accept this offer from the NFL?
KT: I know just that they’ve been in discussions ever since mediation was ordered not too long ago. So they’ve been trying to run from this for too long and realized that they can’t. Evidence has been there. These firms don’t take on these cases unless the evidence is there that it’s going to be a “knock out of the park” case for them, and a guarantee. This resolution has been in the works for quite some time, I’m sure. As the NFL and their attorneys, and attorneys on both sides, obviously look ahead at things rather than where they’re at. They’re always strategizing. So I think this number has come about, and I think it’s a good number, and why I think it’s a good number is because of the details, and the details in this agreement from what I understand are that this number isn’t necessarily a capped number in that this situation and the numbers that are thrown at this are merely being thrown at this to believe that here’s a number we say can probably resolve this for us, if it’s proven that it doesn’t through this system then apparently there are some leverage in the terms of the contract that allow this money to be [inaudible] up if it’s not enough. So hopefully it is enough, so we’ll see.
W&S: What do you say to the people who say $765 [million] or thereabouts is a drop in the bucket for the NFL compared to the boatloads of money they're going to make over the years ... and it's almost a win for the league?
KT: That’s the way I think that the NFL would like it to be presented. But from what I understand, the provisions that are left in this agreement call for a much greater number than has been given to this to resolve the situation. I don’t feel that the $75 million that has been placed into the fund to take care of medical situations for guys and medications, doctor bills, all these other things, etc., is going to be enough. There is a reason why there are 4,500 plaintiffs. It’s not just because guys wanted quick money, as we understand and realize that even a billion-dollar settlement with this many people involved in it is only going to give if you equally divvy it out maybe $100,000 for each guy at the end of the day. But what this agreement is going to do is benefit immediately those individuals in these dire circumstances with these horrific diseases that we’ve been suffering from as National Football League players that are way beyond national rate averages. So I think this number that has been put out there and the numbers that have been put out there according to what I know is not a set-in-stone number. It’s merely a number that has been thrown at this settlement to hopefully be enough, and I don’t think that it is personally. So I think these provisions they’ve left and worked into this contract are right on and these attorneys have been working very hard at this for some time.
What I’m hoping comes out of this is that the mission of this as an injury, that it does exist, we need to pay attention to it, otherwise it’s going to cost you $765 million if you don’t and we need to fix this for our kids because we have three deaths already in youth football and the season hasn’t even started. I watched a kid get Life Flighted from the field in an ESPN-presented high school football game this last weekend. It’s past time there be proper physicians on the sidelines and we recognize this game as the most dangerous game and honor those that choose and dare to play it for our enjoyment and for the fans out there who love football.
Now a member of the Carolina Panthers' radio broadcast team, Robinson said he suffered at least two concussions he was aware of during his career from 1985 to 2000 with Seattle, Green Bay, Atlanta and Carolina.
He said that as recently as two years ago, he went to a neurologist in Raleigh, N.C., because of "a little memory loss" he associated with the concussions. Robinson was not a part of the lawsuit filed by more than 4,500 ex-players.
"I was up there like eight hours," Robinson told ESPN.com of his visit to the neurologist. "She would read me a story. I could tell her the beginning and the end. But the middle part, I had no clue."
A three-time Pro Bowl selection, Robinson said his first concussion occurred in the early 1990s when he was with the Seahawks playing the Cardinals.
"I saw stars," he said. "I got kicked in the side of the head. As I was getting up, I saw those little stars and I just knew I was going to go out, and I called the signals. I went out.
"[Then] I looked and there was 1:28 on the clock in the first quarter. I said, 'What's 1:28? What's 1:28?' They said, 'Hey, call a play.' I said, 'Oh, my goodness, I'm in a football game.'"
Robinson, 50, said he knows several players whose careers were affected by concussions, including former Panthers linebacker Dan Morgan. Morgan, now the assistant director of pro personnel for Seattle, had at least five reported concussions dating back to his college days at Miami that factored into his retiring in 2008 after only seven NFL seasons.
Robinson said "there's no doubt" the settlement was huge for those involved but added that just how huge will depend on where it leads.
“Concussions are part of the game,” Ditka said. “I know a lot of the old players need a lot of help, and it’s quite a settlement from what I understand. I think people have hid behind this too long. It’s time it’s out in the open. It’s out in the open now, so we’ll see what happens.”
The former players alleged that the NFL mistreated concussions by hiding the risks. With the lawsuit now settled, the allegations against the league won’t be made public in court.
According to the court document, following the order from Senior U.S. District Judge Anita Brody outlining the settlement, “the settlement does not represent, and cannot be considered an admission by the NFL of liability, or an admission that plaintiffs’ injuries were caused by football. Nor is it an acknowledgement by the plaintiffs of any deficiency in their case. Instead, it represents a decision by both sides to compromise their claims and defenses, and to devote their resources to benefit retired players and their families, rather than litigate these cases.”
Alicia Duerson, the ex-wife of former Bears safety Dave Duerson, who committed suicide by shooting himself in the chest in February 2011, told ESPN’s Kelly Naqi she still isn’t quite sure of the implications the settlement carries. Duerson’s family donated his brain to the Center for the Study of Traumatic Encephalopathy at Boston University, where experts found the former safety’s brain tissue revealed evidence of chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE).
“It’s so new,” Alicia Duerson said. “We haven’t had a chance to talk to the attorneys, so I don’t know what it means for me and my kids. I’ll need a couple of days to digest it.”
The NFL actually has 20 years to pay out the $765 million agreement; the league is also required to pay the players' legal fees on top of the $765 million. According to a court summary distributed to the media, the payment plan requires "approximately 50 percent of the settlement amount" to be paid over the next three years. The balance would be paid over the final 17 years.
Before legal fees, that works out to about $127.5 million in each of the next three years and then $22.5 million per year thereafter. That plan would work because the case won't pay out equally to each plaintiff. Instead, according to the document, "the precise amount of compensation will be based upon the specific diagnosis, as well as other factors including age, number of seasons played in the NFL and other relevant medical conditions."
I won't pretend to be a financial genius. But when an industry with $9 billion in annual revenues can pay out a landmark legal settlement over 20 years, I think we can politely call it manageable. A case that once threatened the league's existence has turned into a relative financial blip.
That realization spread quickly after Thursday's announcement, and I thought former NFL player LeCharles Bentley offered passionate but fair commentary on the topic via Twitter. Among his tweets:
Embarrassing, half the money now and rest over 17 years!! I'm going to lift weights, so disgusted. Sorry, to the players that deserved this.— LeCharles Bentley (@LeCharlesBent65) August 29, 2013
765 million.... The league will get that back in fines in what.... Three weeks of cracking down even more in "illegal" hits.— LeCharles Bentley (@LeCharlesBent65) August 29, 2013
To be clear, the NFL doesn't funnel fine money into its general fund. Instead, the league has said the funds go to "charitable purposes." But Bentley's point is well-taken. While $765 million sounds like a lot of money and is a lot of money, the payment schedule offers quite a soft landing.
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