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Jeff Nixon
February 9

Former NFL players need to get neurological exams before it’s too late

On February. 3, 2016 the New York Times published an article entitled “Ken Stabler, a Magnetic N.F.L. Star, Was Sapped of Spirit by C.T.E.” The author of the article, John Branch, says that “Under the current deal, Stabler’s family would not be eligible for compensation because Stabler’s C.T.E. was diagnosed after the April 2015 cutoff.”

That statement is true with respect to the family not being eligible for compensation under the “Death with C.T.E.” provision of the Settlement, but it would be misleading to say that the family would not be eligible for any compensation – period.

If you look at the specific language on page 8 of the Long Form Notice of the Settlement - which you can read here -  you will see the following language: 

Representative Claimants of deceased Retired NFL Football Players who were diagnosed with ALS, Parkinson’s Disease, Alzheimer’s Disease, Level 2 Neurocognitive Impairment (i.e., moderate Dementia) or Level 1.5 Neurocognitive Impairment (i.e., early Dementia) prior to death or who died prior to July 7, 2014 and received a diagnosis of Death with CTE.  [Note: the cutoff date of July 7, 2014 was subsequently moved to April 22, 2015 per court order]

As you can see, I have underlined and bolded the words prior to death. That is an important distinction – not to be confused with the next section of the clause "or who died prior to July 7, 2014 and received a diagnosis of Death with CTE." 

If Ken Stabler received a qualifying diagnosis of level 1.5 or level 2 Neurocognitive Impairment from a certified neurologist at any time prior to his death, that diagnosis could be used by the family in submitting a claim for compensation under the Settlement. I don’t know if Ken Stabler did, or didn’t get diagnosed, but the fact is Ken knew that he was having memory problems and those around him saw it too.

“The cancer took him away, but his mind was definitely in a pretty quick downward spiral,”  Kendra Stabler Moyes told the New York Times. “I’m grateful that he was still so present, still so there. Because I definitely don’t think he would have been in even three more years.”

It’s not certain whether Ken would have qualified for an award under the Settlement, but according to Dr. Ann McKee, chief of neuropathology at the V.A. Boston Healthcare System who conducted an examination of his brain “He had moderately severe disease.”

I’m only bringing this issue up, to remind former players that it is critical to get a diagnosis as soon as possible if you think you might be suffering from some type of cognitive impairment. If you don’t do it before you die, then it will be impossible for your family to file a legitimate claim on your behalf.

Paying for a certified neurologist and all the testing that is required to render a diagnosis can be very expensive - unless you have good insurance. One of the key benefits of the Settlement is that the NFL will spend up to $75 million for baseline neuropsychological and neurological examinations and additional medical testing, counseling and/or treatment if a player is diagnosed with moderate cognitive impairment during the baseline examinations. Unfortunately, the appeal of the Concussion Settlement is holding up the establishment of the BAP (Baseline Assessment Program) and the money for testing, evaluation and treatment. As a result, many former players are holding off on getting these crucial services.

One of the other unintended consequences of the delay caused by the appeal process, is that some former player’s monetary awards will be reduced because they have had to wait to get diagnosed. Many players have now moved into a different “age category.” Remember, the awards are based on when you get diagnosed.

Every 5 years, the monetary awards are reduced as players get older. For example if a player was between the ages of 50 and 54 years when they were diagnosed with level 2 neurocognitive impairment they would receive $1,200,000, but if they don’t get diagnosed until age 55, their award goes down to $950,000. That’s $250,000 less! 

I read where Joe Kapp was recently diagnosed with Alzheimer’s diseaseI’m not sure when Joe received his diagnosis, but he and his family are now relatively assured of receiving compensation under the NFL Concussion Settlement. That will only happen if the Court of Appeals dismisses the current appeals - and no additional appeals are filed with the Supreme Court. 

The former players that appealed the Settlement want certain protections put in place for those who develop other symptoms associated with C.T.E., such as mood swings, headaches, impulse control, depression and suicidal ideation.  At the November 2015 hearing, the judges appeared skeptical of their arguements, noting that those conditions are widely prevalent in the general population and that players who developed those conditions would not necessarily have C.T.E.

One of the good things about the Concussion Settlement is that players don’t have to prove they have C.T.E. to get an award. If a player is diagnosed with the memory and executive functioning problems that are associated with the disease, they could be eligible for compensation.

Former players have been waiting a long time for the Settlement to become finalized. I wish Ken Stabler and all the other former players that started the litigation against the NFL - but have since passed away - could be there to see us cross the finish line. On that day I’ll play Sweet Home Alabama on my guitar to remind me of the “Snake” and his Hall of Fame life.          

8 comments
February 6

Roger Goodell is right: "There’s risk in sitting on the couch”

Commissioner Roger Goodell talks about Play 60

In a recent article “Roger Goodell warns fans about risks of watching NFL” SB Nation writer Roger Sherman takes exception to NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell’s recent statement that there’s risk in everything – including sitting on the couch.     

While Goodell's statement may seem offensive, or insensitive, his actual statement is not really that far off the mark.  

We are a nation of “couch potatoes” and whether we want to admit it or not, it’s a fact that sitting on the couch will kill you more often than a lifetime of collisions on the football field. If you think that’s absurd, then just do a simple Google search of couch potato and you will find these interesting titles: Inviting Heart Disease: The Couch Potato Connectionor Kid couch potatoes court long-term health risk, and how about this one: Failing To Get Off The Couch May Contribute To Heart Failure. 

Heart disease is the No. 1 cause of death in the United States, killing nearly 800,000 people every year! Cardiovascular diseases claim more lives than all forms of cancer combined. In the United States, someone has a heart attack every 34 seconds. Every 60 seconds, someone in the United States dies from a heart disease-related event.

The good news, according to researchers at the University of Heidelberg in Germany is that you don’t have to go to the gym, or even get strenuous exercise. Just get off the couch!

"Changing from a sedentary to a more physically active lifestyle, even in later adulthood, may strongly decrease coronary heart disease risk," said Dietrich Rothenbacher of the department of epidemiology of the German Centre for Research on Aging at the University of Heidelberg in Heidelberg, Germany.

The National Institute of Health has a great research article entitled: Too Much Sitting: The Population-Health Science of Sedentary Behavior.  In the Abstract to their findings they state “Even when adults meet physical activity guidelines, sitting for prolonged periods can compromise metabolic health. TV time and objective-measurement studies show deleterious associations, and breaking up sedentary time is beneficial. Sitting time, TV time, and time sitting in automobiles increase premature mortality risk.”

So, if you’re a sofa spud and you’re watching a lot of TV - including NFL games every Sunday, Monday and Thursday for 3 or 4 hours at a time, then Roger Goodell is right – you are at risk. My advice: Get up and cheer as often as possible during the game, do the wave with your friends, do an endzone dance if your team scores, do some dabbin' if it makes you move, and probably most importantly.......put down that second piece of chocolate cake! 

Although I've been critical of the NFL on a number of issues, I have to give them credit for finally getting their asses off the couch and doing something to address the youth obesity problem in America. With their Play 60 Challenge they’re working with the American Heart Association and schools all across the U.S. to get kids off the couch….. and on to the field of play. They are also teaching young people about the importance of good nutrition with their “Fuel Up to Play 60". 

The hope is that these programs will change a young person's behavior for the rest of their lives.  

SB Nation writer Sherman Rogers concludes his article by humorously warning everyone that "From here on out, do NOT sit on couches. It is dangerous."  He doesn't know how close to the truth that statement actually is for people that spend a lot of time in front of what my father always referred to as the the boob tube.    

So, while you’re busy watching this year’s Super Bowl game from the comfort of your couch - while munching on all those delicious artery clogging foods - and you happen to find yourself worrying about the terrible things pro football players are doing to their bodies, take a moment to consider what you might be doing to yours.

Slideshow:


  




10 comments
February 2

Lip Reading in the NFL: The good, the bad and the funny

Have you ever noticed how coaches calling the plays on the sidelines always shield their mouths? That's because lip reading has been utilized by teams to steal plays and thereby get a competetive advantage. All you need is a good lip reader with some high powered binoculars and a wireless radio connected to a coach on the sideline.   

Back in the days before they used electronic devices to send the play from a coaches's microphone to the Quarterback's earpiece in his helmet, the plays were sent in using hand signals, or by sending a player into the game with the play call.  Every team would try to steal signals, so coaches had to get creative and employ a few counter-espionage tactics to make sure their plays weren't being pilfered. Sometimes a team would have two or three people on the sideline sending hand signals into the offense or defense. That way, you couldn't be sure who was sending in the "real" signals. This past season, the Oregon Ducks used sheets to hide their signals.   

Since offenses were granted the wireless connection in 1994, it has become much harder to steal plays. Even so, some teams are still trying to get an edge on their opponent by employing really good lip readers. But what happens when you get a bad lip reader and they don't quite interpret the message the right way?  Things can get downright hilarious. Just check out these videos:

My favorite clips in the above video include the Redskins coach telling a player "Please don't cry......why can't you be smooth?"  Adrian Peterson's response to the reporter's question "Tell us what you and the guys have planned for New Year's Eve"  and the Drew Brees pep talk before the game.

My favorite clip in the above video is Cam Newton's response to the question "Why are you always angry?  

Peyton answers the question that everyone has been asking. No, it's not "Are you going to retire after the Super Bowl," it's that age old question "What is something that grosses you out?"

If you don't laugh out loud when you watch these videos then you don't have a funny bone in your body!

   


        



    


10 comments
January 31

The Wonderlic Test: Are you smarter than an NFL rookie?

On February 23, 2016 over three hundred of the very best college football players will be invited to participate in the NFL Scouting Combine in Indianapolis, Indiana. Top Executives, Coaching Staffs, Player Personnel Departments and Medical Personnel from all 32 NFL teams will be on hand to evaluate the nation’s top college football players eligible for the upcoming NFL Draft. 

In 1979, when I was being scouted by the NFL, the combines were still in their formative stages and many teams would simply send scouts directly to college campuses to test players. I remember the Buffalo Bills, Dallas Cowboys, Denver Broncos, Washington Redskins and the Dallas Cowboys sending their scouts to check me out, kick my tires and take a look under my hood. They all tested me for speed, strength, endurance and agility, but only one of them tested me for intelligence - the Dallas Cowboys. Their head coach, Tom Landry, believed it could be used as a predictor of success in pro football. 

The Cowboy's scout never told me how I scored on the test, so I don’t know if America’s Team passed on drafting me because I scored too low, or too high. I can only hope that it was the latter. At the time I took the test - and all the way up to 2009 - no one knew if the test was a true predictor of a success in the NFL, because no studies had been conducted. Nonetheless, all teams started using it, and to this day it is still a part of the overall testing that is conducted at the NFL Combines.

The Wonderlic Test measures a player's cognitive ability. It consists of 50 multiple choice questions to be answered in 12 minutes. The score is calculated as the number of correct answers given in the allotted time. You can take a sample test here to see how you did compared to other NFL rookies who took the test. Here's a tip: Skip the hard questions - but make sure you guess the answer before going on to the next question. 

The NFL rookie scores are not publicly released, however many scores, especially the extremely high or low ones, are leaked. Here are the 15 players with the best reported Wonderlic scores.  You can see some other memorable scores at the Sports Illustrated website here. 

The only perfect score in Combine history belongs to P/WR Pat McInally. He scored a perfect 50 on the test.

The fact that the NFL is still using the Wonderlic Test is a little surprising, because in 2009 researchers conducted an analysis of the Wonderlic Test and GMA (General Mental Ability) and published their results in a paper entitled An Examination of the Impact of Intelligence on NFL Performance.  A total of 762 NFL players, from three draft classes, were included in their sample. So what did they find? The study concluded that there is no correlation between test scores and performance.Their results indicated that GMA was unrelated to (a) future NFL performance, (b) selection decisions during the NFL Draft, and (c) the number of games started in the NFL.

So why are they still using the Wonderlic test…… you may Wonder?

If I had to guess, I would say that NFL teams are still a little worried when a player has a score that is either very low or very high. And why would a high score worry them?  Alabama QB Greg McElroy scored 48 out of 50 possible points, but Mike Florio of Pro Football Talk thinks that scoring too high can be as much of a problem as scoring too low. 

In 2013, the NFL also started experimenting with a new test called the Player Assessment Tool (PAT).  Ray Anderson hailed the PAT as an "exciting innovation that brings updated best practices from corporate America to NFL football operations." Anderson said the test measures "learning styles, motivation, decision-making skills, responding to pressure or unexpected stimuli, and core intellect."  Anderson said the test is not meant to replace the Wonderlic, but he says the new test will offer "much more robust and comprehensive" player assessment. 

The writer of this article believes the Wonderlic test still matters and that “To overvalue it would be foolish; but to ignore its results would render a team as "dumb" as any football player who has ever flunked it.”

I’m glad I never found out how I scored on the test.  You know what they say......ignorance is bliss.

6 comments
January 25

To Play or Not to Play? That's not even a question for prospective NFL players

All over the country the battle lines are being drawn. Defenders and detractors of the game of football are making a case for continuing the sport, or completely shutting it down. Some, like myself, would prefer a happy medium, where they continue to make the game safer without turning it into touch football.

So who are some of the people involved in the debate?

Former players who regret playing, wives of former players, former fans, Mothers against ConcussionsDoctors and just about everyone that has blood coursing through their bodies.

Even the President of the United States has weighed in on this subject - and like all good politicians, he does a great job riding the fence. He said that if he had a son, he wouldn't let him play professional football, but goes on to say "These guys, they know what they're doing. They know what they're buying into. It is no longer a secret. It's sort of the feeling I have about smokers, you know?"

Is the NFL worried that the President spoke out about this issue? Apparently not. They posted his comments on the NFL.com website 

Articles have been published that are both for and against football. Here’s a great Wall Street Journal story entitled "In Defense of Football

On the other side of the argument you have researchers like, Dr. Bennett Omalu, the forensic pathologist that discovered CTE, who wrote an op-ed piece for the New York Times entitled Don’t Let Kids Play Football.  In the article he says that children should be prevented from playing football and other high-impact contact sports before the age of 18.

The critics of letting young people play football seem to be getting their message across. After years of steady growth, Pop Warner Football saw participation drop 9.5 percent between 2010-12. I read stories like this, but then I read other stories like this one: Youth Football, Despite Reported Declines, Is About As Popular As Ever.        

In the case of very young athletes, the decision to play, or not to play football, is being made by their parents. Some of them have been influenced by Dr. Bennett Omalu, but one of his closest colleagues, neurosurgeon Dr. Julian Bailes has endorsed youth football.  He believes that recent rule changes made at all levels of football have reduced the risks associated with the sport. “I’m a big believer in the benefits of organized sports and the benefits of football. I have two children who play football and I believe football is safer than it’s ever been. Dr. Bailes said the risk of CTE Chronic Traumatic Encephelopathy comes from pro football players slamming into each other thousands of times over the course of years, and not from the kinds of hits that children inflict on each other in a few Pop Warner seasons."

So what does all this mean for the NFL?  And now that everyone knows the risks of playing football, are players deciding not to play in the NFL?  The answer is a resounding NO. 

In an April 29, 2012 article, Mike Florio of Pro Football Talk said "One of the biggest hurdles facing the former players suing the NFL for concussions suffered during their playing careers arises from the claim that the NFL failed to warn the players regarding the risks of concussions. The NFL undoubtedly will defend that specific allegation by arguing that, even if warnings had been issued, the players would not have stopped playing football. Supporting that contention will be the fact that no NFL player has retired due to fear of potential harm from concussions. Yes, some have retired due to the immediate consequences of multiple concussions. But no NFL player, current or prospective, has passed on playing football at its highest level due merely to the fear that the player may suffer one or more concussions that may cause problems for him later in life.”

Although I disagreed with Florio’s legal argument in my article “Mike Florio’s Pro Football Talk is cheap on concussion lawsuit,” he was right about what he said in the last underlined sentence of that paragraph: No player has passed on playing in the NFL out of fear of being injured.  Some players, like Chris Borland, walked away from the NFL, but only after they had already sustained several concussions. I am not aware of any college football players (drafted by the NFL) that said no thanks, I might get a concussion and develop CTE.      

In response to Borland’s retirement, Jeff Miller, the NFL's senior vice president of health and safety policy, said “Playing any sport is a personal decision. By any measure, football has never been safer and we continue to make progress with rule changes, safer tackling techniques at all levels of football, and better equipment, protocols and medical care for players. Concussions in NFL games were down 25 percent last year, continuing a three-year downward trend. We continue to make significant investments in independent research to advance the science and understanding of these issues. We are seeing a growing culture of safety."

Jeff Miller is absolutely right. The League has taken measures to make the game safer. Unfortunately, all the misinformation surrounding CTE is still causing a lot of people to question whether football should be banned - especially at the younger levels of play.

In the Newsday article I previously referenced, Dr. Bailes said that the large number of former NFL players who have been diagnosed with CTE come from those players’ brains being selected for research specifically because those players showed symptoms of brain damage. "Those that have been tested were those who the family brought forward after death thinking that they had CTE, thinking they were symptomatic, thinking they were showing signs and symptoms, so it’s a very skewed, very biased sample if you look at it scientifically or epistemologically. We don’t know the real prevalence. I have said and I believe that CTE is a risk in a minority of NFL players and hopefully in a group of players who are in a now bygone era, meaning that the reforms in the NFL that began in 2009, as a result of our work and others’ work, has resulted in sweeping changes.” 

Dr. Bailes was citing the research conducted by Ann McKee at the Boston Center for the Study of CTE. At one time, Dr. McKee was being accused of trying to kill the sport of football, but in the following article she is lauded as the “Woman who would save football.”  McKee is concerned with understanding what causes CTE in some players and not others, as well as in developing a baseline test for CTE in the living.

Before we can answer the question: To play or not to play? We first need to separate the hype from the science. Only then can we make good personal decisions.

I don’t know what the future holds for Pee Wee, Pop Warner or High School Football, but one thing is certain. As long as College Football Scholarships are offered and the NFL continues to pay a minimum salary of $450,000 to rookies and an average salary of over $2 million, there will always be a long line of players willing to sacrifice their bodies and brains to entertain the masses.

24 comments
January 23

Mike Florio’s Pro Football Talk is cheap on concussion lawsuits: Revisited

Mike Florio of Pro Football Talk

I wrote the following article in response to Mike Florio's article entitled  "Disconnect grows between former, current players regarding concussions." Mike writes for Profootballtalk.com, which he created and owns. He is a well respected NFL analyst and he regularly appears on network and cable shows to break down the top stories of the day. Although it has been almost 4 years since we wrote our opinions about the concussion lawsuits and how the courts would view the arguments, I thought it would be interesting to revisit the things we said back then, because some of it is still relevant today.  The one thing I would like you to take away from the article is the fact that former players were the ones that have been responsible for most of the changes that have been made to make the game safer for today's players. Our lawsuits and appearances before Congress, along with numerous stories in the media about players suffering from the effects of concussions were the impetus behind everything that has happened to save what I consider to be the "Greatest Show on Earth."           

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Original article posted at the Jeff Nixon Sports Report - May 3, 2012.

In a recent article, Mike Florio, a writer for Pro Football Talk says “One of the biggest hurdles facing the former players suing the NFL for concussions suffered during their playing careers arises from the claim that the NFL failed to warn the players regarding the risks of concussions. The NFL undoubtedly will defend that specific allegation by arguing that, even if warnings had been issued, the players would not have stopped playing football. Supporting that contention will be the fact that no NFL player has retired due to fear of potential harm from concussions. Yes, some have retired due to the immediate consequences of multiple concussions. But no NFL player, current or prospective, has passed on playing football at its highest level due merely to the fear that the player may suffer one or more concussions that may cause problems for him later in life.”

Under Mr. Florio’s line of reasoning, let’s compare pro football to some other dangerous professions – and look at what those employees knew before and after they started working.

The police officer, firefighter and construction worker know that they can be seriously injured or even killed on the job, but does the fear of that happening stop them from entering their chosen profession? Of course not! So why would Mike Florio use this argument – for the NFL owners – as a defense against the claims of professional football players?

I don’t think that Mr. Florio looks at most pro football players as serious, rational human beings. In an article posted on PFT, he once said “We realize that football players often have a very linear approach to reality, and that problems typically are confronted by dropping a shoulder and running at them, full speed. In many situations, however, a more careful and reasoned approach is required.”

That’s a cheap shot!

So what does Mr. Florio think the retired player’s careful and reasoned approach should be to the issue of concussions? Should we hope and pray that the NFL will do the right thing and compensate retired players for the traumatic brain injuries they sustained while playing pro football? Should we try to negotiate a settlement outside of court intervention? Should we picket the games, or should we just lay down our arms, roll over and accept the premise that concussions are just part of the game; an acceptable form of collateral damage?

In his article, Mr. Florio also says that “Highlighting the fact that fear of concussions has yet to scare away incoming players is the arrival at the NFL level of receiver Nick Toon. The son of Al Toon, who ultimately left the game due to the debilitating effects of multiple serious concussions, Nick Toon will join the Saints.”

In my opinion, Nick Toon should split his signing bonus with his father. Al Toon and many other retired player advocates have done a lot to raise awareness on the issue of concussions. By doing so, retired players have helped to make the NFL world a better place to live and play.

I would also like to point out that there are many children of police officers, firefighters and construction workers that have followed in the footsteps of their fathers and mothers – even after their parents were injured and killed on the job. Despite that fact, Mr. Florio thinks that professional football players should just walk away from the game now that they know the risks.

I’m not saying that the job of a pro football player is as important to our society as a police officer or a fireman – because it isn’t. But that doesn’t mean we should be treated differently in a court of law. Those other professionals routinely file suit against the government and companies that are negligent in their responsibility to their employees, so why can’t retired players – without someone saying we wouldn’t have listened to warnings anyway?

The good news for active players is that the risks are getting smaller because the NFL has started addressing concussions and player safety in many different ways. For example, mandatory pre and post concussion testing, independent doctor analysis of player concussions, better equipment, rule changes, additional research and the list goes on. It’s not perfect, but it’s a start.

The new generation of players should be extremely grateful to retired players for raising public awareness about the problems associated with concussions. We took our message all the way to the halls of Congress – and now the courts. The only reason the NFL is making the game safer for today’s players, is because retired player made it an issue. That’s the retired player “Legacy” in action!

Dave Duerson and Ray Easterling are devastating examples of how far some players are willing to go to send a message to the NFL that something needs to be done.

All players know about the risk of injury from playing football, but that isn’t the issue in the court cases. The lawsuits allege that the NFL intentionally and fraudulently misled players who reasonably relied upon the NFL’s expertise about its own sport on the short-term and long-term risks posed by concussions and head trauma. Rather than warn its players that they risked permanent brain injury if they returned to play too soon after sustaining a concussion, the NFL actively deceived players, resulting in the players’ belief that concussions did not present serious, life-altering risks.

For the record, Mr. Florio doesn’t say that retired player’s claims lack merit, he just thinks that “….as players who now know all they need to know about the risks associated with playing football continue to flock to the NFL, it will be harder and harder to get a judge or a jury to accept that players would have walked away from the sport if they had known then what all players know now.’

Ultimately, the courts will decide if the NFL is guilty and therefore liable for damages, but I doubt that Mr. Florio’s proposed “walk away” defense for the owners will do much to sway a judge or jury.

In one of the comments posted, in response to Mr. Florio’s article, a fan said it best: “Seriously, if “they wouldn’t have listened anyway” is their [the owners] best argument, they better be stashing away settlement cash by the truckload now ’cause they are going to lose big with that reasoning.”

Mr. Florio has talked the talk, but retired players have walked the walk……. and we are not walking away from this issue.

Talk is cheap unless it’s backed up by deeds. In filing 65 lawsuits that cover over 1,300 former players, we are taking action. And yes, Mr. Florio – Sean Salisbury is right, there is strength in numbers.

There is no disconnect between current and former players on the issue of concussions as Mike Florio suggests in his article. We are united with active players in making the game safer. Retired players helped to connect the dots that show concussions lead to serious problems in later life and we are united with active players in making sure that the best medical treatment is available to past, present and future players.

Most retired players still love the game and we will continue to be ambassadors for the NFL, but that doesn’t mean we will just overlook the problems that occurred when we played the game. The lawsuits are not personal….they’re just business. It may surprise Mr. Florio, but the owners understand this and that’s why they invited some of the players that are suing them to announce the draft picks last week.

To be totally fair, the NFL has done some things that directly benefit the older generation of retired players who have developed symptoms that we believe are related to TBI (Traumatic Brain Injury). In the 2006 CBA they established the 88 Plan that pays for the care of former players that have developed Alzheimer’s, dementia and ALS. Although that was a good victory for former players, the NFL put language in that CBA making it clear that they do not admit in any way, shape or form that those illnesses resulted from concussions a player sustained while playing in the NFL.

In the new CBA, the League also created the Neuro-Cognitive benefit, but that benefit only covers players that are vested and have at least one credited after 1994, and it requires that any former player receiving the benefit sign a form agreeing not to sue the NFL now, or in the future. With a single stroke of a pen, they substantially reduced their future liability for concussion related lawsuits.

The League is going to fight the current lawsuits with everything they have, and whether we win or lose those individual battles, retired players can always take pride in knowing that we have already won the war. Retired player advocacy has improved player safety and has forever changed the way that concussions are handled by the NFL.

The victory did not come cheap. Some players have paid the ultimate price. I hope the NFLPA and the NFL remember the retired player sacrifices the next time the CBA is up for negotiation.  

13 comments
January 20

ESPN documentary will show Jim McMahon’s miraculous recovery

Exactly one year ago, HBO’s Real Sports with Bryant Gumbel aired a show entitled “Monsters no more”. It was a story about the 1985 Chicago Bears – one of the most iconic championship teams in modern pro sports history. The program featured an array of memorable characters such as Jim McMahon, William Perry, Walter Payton, Dave Duerson, Mike Singletary and Richard Dent. Bryant explored the triumph and tragedy that has touched this band of close-knit brothers. McMahon's physical and mental struggles were front-and-center.

What a difference a year can make.

On February 4, 2016, ESPN will air a “30 for 30” documentary that examines the 1985 Bears and includes the remarkable recovery of Jim McMahon.

A few years ago, Jim McMahon thought that he was in the early stages of dementia, but in the following video he talks about how his pain and some of his memory problems were linked to a simple alignment problem in his spinal cord.

McMahon’s miracle story came about after a visit to New York chiropractor Dr. Scott Rosa. After a specialized scan in the FONAR Upright MRI, Jim was found to have significant misalignment at the base of his skull causing obstruction to the flow of his spinal fluid. McMahon received Rosa’s patented I.G.A.T. (Image Guided Atlas Treatment) which, Jim says literally saved his life.

Just moments after the first cervical adjustment, McMahon said "it felt like a toilet bowel flushed and all the pain and stress went away". This occurred because the CSF (Cerebrospinal Fluid) flow went from being obstructed to flowing normally, allowing it to remove the neurotoxins and wastes that are a byproduct of brain function. This improved Jim McMahon's dementia symptoms as well his brain fog, migraines and slurred speech.  

“Jim McMahon suffered from Cranio-Cervical Syndrome (CCS), which was giving him his pain," said Dr. Damadian, the inventor of the FONAR Upright MRI.  Cranio-Cervical Syndrome (CCS), occurs as a result of injury to the structures which connect the head to the neck. Misalignment may cause abnormal stress tension on the spinal cord and blood vessels interfering with brain function. Image Guided Atlas Treatment restores the alignment of the affected structures so the brain and nervous system can return to normal function.  "Jim's problems originated because of injury to his neck which caused the obstructions of cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) flow to his brain. After the IGAT treatment, Jim’s brain functions normalized.

Dr. Damadian also said "We are stunned by these most recent medical insights we are gaining from FONAR's new technology for making live cines of the cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) as it flows in and out of the upright brain. It opens a whole new dimension in our understanding of the body's brain and nervous system, the processes that regulate it, and the prospect of developing new therapies that might be able to address a significant number of current day neurological problems."

Jim McMahon with Dr. Raymond Damadian, the inventor of the FONAR Upright MRI and Dr. Scott Rosa - seated at right who treated Jim with his patented IGAT (Image Guided Atlas Treatment) method.

The alignment issue is also important when talking about "specialized" mouthguards which, when combined with good neck strength and upper body muscle asymmetry, could prevent or reduce the severity of concussions. But that's another story for another time. 

I can't say whether the new Upright MRI scanning device and Image Guided Altas Treatment method will help you, or any other former player that is experiencing pain and/or neurocognitive impairment problems, but it can't hurt to look into it.

I know Jim McMahon's glad he did.  "Let's raise the awareness about this problem,'' he said. "I wish they had figured out what was wrong with me sooner, but at least I got some help. Let's help others out there and let's deal with the problem."

You can read more about how these doctors helped Jim in this Newsday article - LI doctors help Jim McMahon get his life back, and they can help others, too  

It should be noted that in the aforementioned article it states that "Despite his recent improvement, McMahon believes he may be suffering from chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE), a progressive neurodegenerative disease. He has agreed to donate his brain to the Boston University School of Medicine, said to be the country's leading facility for studying the brains of deceased former players." 

For more information, contact the Trauma Imaging Foundation at 845-796-2200, or by email at traumaimagingfoundation@gmail.com. 

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January 18

Jerry Kramer is selling his Superbowl I Ring

"I took aIl my moments home and put them in a trunk. And some day I was gonna get in that trunk and enjoy it. I haven’t got time to do that. I’m still running, I’m still busy, I’m still doing. I’m still having a wonderful time, so I don’t have time for yesterday. I guess I’m worried about tomorrow and thinking about tomorrow." – Jerry Kramer

When I first saw the headline Jerry Kramer Selling Super Bowl I Ring  I was worried that he may be having financial problems. I was happy to find out that he’s doing just fine and plans to use the money to create a college fund for his grandchildren.

Jerry Kramer's Super Bowl I ring will be put up for auction, along with other memorabilia on February 20-21, 2016

I know many people will wonder why he would give up something that carries so many good memories. After all, that’s why they call it memorabilia. This won’t be the first time or the last time that a Super Bowl ring will be put on the auction block. There are many sad, crazy and fun tales  about Super Bowl Rings, but this one has a happy ending.

What everyone should know, is that Jerry understands the sentimental value of the ring. He knows what it represents and what it symbolizes. He almost lost it forever. He talks about it in this YouTube clip: 

The auction company eventually returned the original Super Bowl ring to Kramer. In return, Kramer gave his replica ring to the auction company where $22,000 was raised. Kramer founded Gridiron Greats and the $22,000 became the initial capital for the organization.

“I count that as one of my major contributions in life,” Kramer said.

This coming Saturday, January 23, 2016, Jerry will be celebrating his 80th birthday. The average lifespan for most former players is 75, so you can see why he doesn’t have time for yesterday, and I applaud him for taking that attitude.

Sometimes we get so caught up in yesterday that we forget about today. We forget about the things that we can do right now to help others that are less fortunate. We forget about what we can do right now to bring about a better future for those who are close to us.

You can hear Jerry tell us in his own words why he is selling some off his memorabilia at this YouTube clip:

Jerry has a chance to help his grandchildren secure a better life. Isn’t that more important than anything else?

The ring is just a symbol……. but nothing can replace the value of the memory of what he and the Green Bay Packers accomplished by winning the very first Super Bowl. 

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January 16

Poll: Would you like to see the Bills on HBO’s Hard Knocks?

Each season, HBO’s Hard Knocks documentary follows a National Football League team through its training camp and covers the team's preparation for the upcoming football season. The show examines the personal and professional lives of the coaches, staff and players. It also focuses on the high-profile veterans, rookie hopefuls, free agents and journeymen throughout training camp and the four-game preseason schedule. 

In 2010, Rex Ryan and the New York Jets were chronicled in the series' sixth season - and it looks like there may be an opportunity for an encore performance for coach Rex next summer.

Under NFL rules established in 2013, if no team volunteers for Hard Knocks, a team can be forced to do it by NFL management and that’s because the NFL is under contract with HBO to help produce the show. The only exceptions are for teams that don’t have a new head coach, haven’t been on Hard Knocks in the last 10 years, and haven’t been to the playoffs in the last two years.

The Bills fit the Bill…….along with eight other teams that include the Bears, Jaguars, Buccaneers, Raiders, Chargers, Rams and Saints.

Most coaches don’t like any distractions during summer camp or pre-season, but team owners aren’t particularly concerned about that. They’re looking to market their teams and sell season tickets. And what better way to do it then getting free publicity from a reality show that gets the fans excited about the upcoming season.

A team could “volunteer” to be on the show, but the NFL will eventually make a decision that’s based on which team will give them the best bang for their buck - and get the greatest number of most fans to dish out their hard earned bucks.

I think the Bills will be right at the top of the list.

The last time Rex and the Jets were featured, HBO captured three Sports Emmys, including Outstanding Edited Series/Anthology.

If the Bills are selected, the show will have some interesting story lines to follow, such as:

• Rex Ryan’s brother Rob Ryan joining the coaching staff

• Tyrod Taylor’s progress in becoming the franchise QB the Bills have been looking for since Jim Kelly last suited up

• Sammy “Just throw me the damn ball” Watkins

• LeSean “Shady” McCoy’s drive to be the best RB in the NFL

• Future Hall of Famer Ed Reed’s work with the Defensive Backs

• Players eating the Best Chicken Wings and Beef on Weck in the known Universe!

• The 16 year playoff drought (sorry I had to bring that up)

• The Drive for Five (Superbowl appearances, that is) And lets hope we do more than just appear at the next one

And of course, more speeches like this one:

Personally speaking, I think it would be great for Bills fans to be educated and enlightened at the school of hard knocks. It’s not too often that fans get a chance to see their team up close and personal.


10 comments
January 12

Poll: Would you like to see Chad Kelly in a Bills uniform?

While watching the College National Football Championship on Monday night, I couldn’t help but wonder what would have happened if Clemson had Chad Kelly playing quarterback for the Tigers.

In 2014 Chad was kicked off the Clemson team for “conduct detrimental to the team.”  Clemson coach Bo Sweeny said "I hope he will mature and grow from this and become the man and player I know he can be.”

Well, it looks like he's matured like a fine wine and he's also done a pretty good job of redeeming himself.  In fact, only one quarterback and one team can say they beat Alabama this year - Chad Kelly and the Ole Miss Rebels.

Chad Kelly runs for a TD against Alabama

While everyone is calling DeShaun Watson the greatest show on earth - and I have to admit that his performance was unbelievable and he deserves all the praise he’s getting - Chad’s performance against Alabama during the season and Oklahoma State in the Sugar Bowl show that he’s also the real deal

Although it's exciting to see a QB run the ball and give his team a dual threat, nothing is more important than a QB who knows when to run and when to sit in the pocket and deliver a pass. This is even more important in the NFL. Running QB’s don’t always last very long in the NFL. Just ask RGIII.

RG III emptying his locker in Washington

It would have been interesting to see Chad enter the NFL draft this year, but he’s decided to stay with the Rebels for his senior year, which is probably the best decision he could make. Earn your degree because a career in the NFL can be very short. The extra year will give him even more experience and a better chance of being a high first round pick in 2017.

I know the possibility of Buffalo drafting him will be slim, and maybe I’m just dreaming when I say this, but wouldn’t it be nice to see Chad in a Bills uniform? He’s a rebel and gambler…..just like his Uncle Jim Kelly was when he came to Buffalo. We all know how that story ended. Now we need a sequel.  

Chad Kelly with Jim Kelly. Chad is holding the Sugar Bowl MVP trophy



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