The NFL = Not For Long!

I was fortunate to get the opportunity to play in the NFL, but like most players it ended due to injuries I sustained during my playing days.

I can't help but wonder how many players that were injured in Pop Warner, High School and College - and never got the chance to play in the NFL - could have been the next Andre Reed, Jim Kelly, Bruce Smith or Thurman Thomas. 

I wanted to be the next Paul Krauss.........the next Dick "Night Train" Lane.  Intercepting passes was my forte. I had 23 career interceptions in college and I wanted to be right up there with the all-time great defensive backs in the NFL.   

I had some early success in the NFL, but I never had a chance to show what I could have done if I had played for a long time. In my very first game as a starter we played the Minnesota Vikings.  In the game, Tommy Kramer tried a deep pass to Ahmad Rashad but I made the interception as if I were the intended receiver.   

The interception was my 5th of the year. I had one more against Terry Bradshaw and the Steelers to end the season with 6. At that time, I had tied the Buffalo Bills record (with Butch Byrd) for the most interceptions by a rookie.  A few years ago that record was broken by another guy named Byrd..........Jarius Byrd. 

The announcers for this 1979 game said I had a great future in the NFL. They said the same in 1980 thing when I was leading the National Football League in interceptions  with 5 in the first 4 games, but as I soon found out, the NFL also stands for "Not For Long" and in the 5th game of that season I injured my knee in a game against the San Diego Chargers - an injury that would haunt me for the next 4 years and eventually end my playing days in the NFL.

Unfortunately, injuries take most players away from the game they love to play. It's impossible to know what would have happened if I had remained injury free.  I often wonder how some players can play 8 or more years in the NFL without getting a "career" ending injury.  Is it fate....luck.....skill? 

The answer is none of the above.

The truth is, the NFL is a violent game and players are going to get injured. Some players beat the odds, but like most gamblers - and we are gambling that we won't get hurt - the house (the NFL) always comes out ahead. The NFL has an ample supply of bodies waiting in the ranks to take the place of a gladiator that has gone down.

It bothers me when fans, announcers and writers say a player just can seem to stay "healthy" - as if we they were always coming down with the flu or some other virus or disease that was keeping them out of the game.   Most players are much healthier than the general public - it was our job to be in top physical condition.  I also scoff at the suggestion that certain players are injury prone. To a certain degree, that might be true if a player is getting leg cramps or pulled muscles because they aren't stretching properly, or their conditioning is not up to par, but don't confuse that type of injury with a broken bone, a ligament stretch or tear, hip pointers, turf toes, neck, back, knee, arm, wrist, ankle, shoulder and thigh injuries - and lets not forget the most devastating injury..... concussions. 

As of this week, almost 300 players are listed on the NFL's injury report as being Out, Doubtful, Questionable or Probable. You can see the list at this link:  NFL Injury Report   

Every season, hundreds of players sustain injuries that eventually become what are commonly referred to as career ending injuries. No one likes to think about that - especially the players. I'm not even sure if it should be called a "career" ending injury because no one really has a career in the NFL. The average player last about 3 to 5  years in the NFL - not much of a career by any stretch of the imagination.    

Surgical techniques have come a long way since I played the game.  My first injury - a medial collateral ligament stretch - could have been easily repaired in today's NFL via an arthroscopic surgery. It could have lengthened my career, but that procedure was not available when I played.  Instead, I have two 12 inch "zippers" on my left knee from a surgery that ended my career in the NFL. 

For those that make it to the professional football level, I have this one small piece of advice.  Start preparing today for your "real career" after football because the NFL is Not For Long.

"Fame is a Vapor, Riches Take Wings.........the only thing that endures is Character." -  Saying from a poster that my Buffalo Bills Trainer, Eddie (Abe) Abramowski had next to his taping station.            


    

“OPTING OUT” IS TOO DANGEROUS A RISK TO TAKE

 “OPTING OUT” IS TOO DANGEROUS A RISK TO TAKE

As I’m sure some of you have noticed, the 7 objectors to the settlement—and their attorneys—have been making a lot of noise lately. It seems that, after the Third Circuit refused to hear their appeal, they are now waging a media and email blitz to try and recruit more objectors or opt outs. I’m sure that I am not the only one to have come across their misleading arguments in the last few days.

If you ask me, the fact that the objectors have resorted to such tactics means that they are grasping at straws. The Third Circuit Court has already denied their legal arguments, so now they are attempting to create confusion and unrest among retired players in hopes of undermining a settlement that so many retired players will need to rely upon, either today or in the future.

It’s only the latest time the settlement has come under attack by this tiny group of retired players and their lawyers who tried to speak for all of us, even though they didn’t join the thousands who stepped up and sued the league in the first place.

The worst part is that these provocative, misleading tactics aren’t even necessary. Judge Brody has already said that she intends to give the objectors’ arguments fair and thorough consideration at the fairness hearing this November. If after that hearing she determines that the settlement is not fair, reasonable and adequate for ALL of us, then she will act to make things right—just like she did in January.

For now, however, the most important decision about this settlement is ours to make. Retired players should not opt out of this deal. This settlement isn’t perfect, but it’s still a very good deal that gives us a far better outcome than we could have ever hoped to get by continuing to litigate.

Let’s not forget the NFL’s own actuaries have told us. They predict that retired players have a nearly 3 in 10 chance of developing dementia or worse. As I wrote last month: “Under this agreement, we all get medical assessments to help us reduce that risk if at all possible. The 3 in 10 of us who end up getting sick, get paid. The 7 in 10 of us who don’t should be counting our lucky stars that we didn’t get sick!”

In light of those statistics, “opting out” means nothing less than taking the risk of a lifetime. Those who opt out will be permanently, totally forbidden from collecting benefits under this agreement. They will then face the full might of the NFL’s well-paid legal team, and they will do so alone—without the strength-in-numbers that helped us get this settlement in the first place.

And you don’t have to take this from me: Arthur Miller, a law professor at New York University, warned players about the risks of opting out or objecting in a recent op-ed:

“For any player to opt out of this settlement and pursue litigation on his own seems foolish. It is highly likely that anyone going it alone would lose in court and end up with nothing. And although opt-outs and objections are common in class-action settlements, any unsuccessful objector who appeals would hold up benefits for every retired player.”

It looks like the retired player community agrees. According to court records, only 9 former players have opted out of the NFL Concussion Settlement. Let me repeat that: 9 opt outs. Out of 20,000 class members. That’s a tiny .00045% of the settlement class - a pretty strong indication that the vast majority of former players are in favor of the Settlement.

I fully respect the right of every retired player to make his own choice, but I also feel a duty to voice my opinion, which is that opting out is the wrong decision.

This settlement may not give us everything, but it does give us everything we fought for when we began this lawsuit. I am afraid that those who try and fight for more will risk losing it all.

If you would like to comment on this issue, please go to the open forum and post your thoughts at the following website: http://www.playerinjury.com/discussion/

Check out what some of your teammates have already said.  

The NFL Engagement Zone: Resources for Former NFL Players

Dear NFL Alumni:

The NFL Engagement Zone is an invitation-only social network – a forum for current and former NFL players and student-athletes, and a place to find resources specific to athletes’ needs. The Engagement Zone lets current and former NFL players communicate among themselves and share resources and ideas. By staying in contact with one another and with NFL Player Engagement staff on a private network, we can learn from one another and benefit from Player Engagement programs and resources. Here is a link to the website where you can request an invite:  NFL Engagement Zone: Request Invite.

The NFL also has a Player Engagement website where former players can go to find out about new programs and listen to what other former players are saying and doing in their communities. Here is a link to that web page: NFL Player Engagement - Next: Former Players.

I often get emails from wives that want to get more involved with activities, share their experiences,  and learn from other wives. In response to the concerns of former player’s wives, the NFL has established the WRI (Women’s Resource Initiative). Here is a link to that web page: NFL Women's Resource Initiative.

I am also providing a link to the 2014 -2015 Legends Community Resource Guide. It is the most comprehensive listing and summary of programs and services that are available to former players. You should save the Guide to you computer desktop and if possible, share it with all your alumni brothers. Here is the link: 2014-2015 Legends Community Resource Guide.

Lastly,  I would like to note that NFL Player Engagement posts articles from former players on Sportsblog.com - This very website.  I've been the top pro player blogger here (receiving the most site visits) for quite some time now. Hey, if I don't toot my own horn..........nobody will.

Your alumni brother,

Jeff Nixon            



I hope that this information will be of some benefit to you and your family. 

Schlereth and Bruschi to Goodell: Former Players should mentor active players

This past Friday, ESPN analysts and former NFL players Mark Schlereth and Tedy Bruschi  responded to Commissioner Goodell’s news conference.  Bruchsi said “We needed someone to go up there and be a leader. To be a leader and say something substantial. To give all of the public out there, all of the fans, all of the former players, all of the current players. To give them hope that things will be done right, and that wasn't done because I don't think Roger Goodell is the guy that can do that anymore.”

Schlereth and Bruschi weren't just criticizing the Commissioner - they also had something substantial to say - including an idea on how to help the younger players that are having problems. 

Schlereth made this passionate plea to Commissioner Roger Goodell:

“There are so many good men.....I’ve been talking about this forever....... there are so many good men that played in this league, or coached in this league that are mentors, that are wonderful husbands, that are wonderful fathers, that are just wonderful businessmen and are accountable in their communities, there are so many great people, so many real men that have been involved in this League for a very long time – why are you not reaching out to those guys to mentor your young players? Why are those guys, as soon as they retire, kicked to the curb, and told we don't need you anymore because you can't make us money? Why are those guys not involved in the National Football League and why are those guys not helping to solve this issue with young players that don't understand how to be a professionals?" 

This same questions should be asked of the NFL Players Association.

In fact DeMaurice Smith said he was interested in implementing a program like this when he was first appointed by the active players. To my knowledge, it has never gotten off the ground.

I don’t care which entity gets the ball rolling on this type of mentorship program, but it needs to happen soon. Schlereth is right - there are a lot of former players that would make excellent mentors for these younger players - Men that could impart some wisdom and experience in a young men that never received a “real life” book on how to conduct themselves. Sure, they have a copy of the NFL's Player Conduct Policy that tells them all about the things they shouldn't do - along with the amount of the fines they will have to pay when they fall from grace - and there's a two day program that all rookies are required to attend - right after the NFL Draft - but that's not going to make one bit of difference for most of the players. They need an ongoing mentoring relationship that is similar to the nationally renowned Big Brother Big Sister Program that has a 110 year history of running mentoring programs.

A program for NFL players would require trained mentors that have been thoroughly screened. It goes without saying - but I’ll say it anyway - some former players are leading lives that are not worthy of duplication. But for every former player that is not the best role model, there are 10 in the ranks that would make excellent Big Brothers to a young rookie - and even some veteran players. Although it makes sense to have former players as mentors, I would not exclude non-football players in this type of program. There are a lot of folks out there that could be just as helpful - and it doesn't make sense to rule them out.

I’m not saying every NFL player needs this type of program, but wouldn’t it make sense to for players that are having problems, to go through some type of mandatory mentoring?

Schlereth doesn't think Roger Goodell is the man for the job.

“In my opinion, in my personal opinion, being a former player that spent 13 years in this league trying to do the right thing, I want a new Commissioner to lead my league. I want a new Commissioner to go out there and say the right things and be that leader, because right now, Roger Goodell is not that. And I don’t think he can ever be that. Roger Goodell needs to step down and move on, and we need new leadership. The big reset button needs to be pressed on the NFL right now, and it starts by Roger Goodell stepping down.”

If the Commissioner adopted a mentoring program like the one Schlereth and many others have called for, it just might restore some the confidence that Roger Goodell has lost in the ranks of the retired.

What do you think?




Concussion actuarial reports show why we should not opt out of the settlement

After Judge Brody stepped in to make sure there was enough money in the NFL Concussion Settlement, the biggest remaining question for critics was about how many members of the settlement class would actually receive any compensation.

Well, now we know. Last Friday, the Special Master released the actuarial data compiled by both our lawyers and the NFL. According to the analysis done by both sides, about 28 percent of former players are projected to develop compensable injuries.

In other words: almost 6,000 retired players are expected to develop dementia or worse - and thus be eligible for compensation under this settlement!  First of all, that’s a far cry from the claims made by some critics that hardly anyone will be compensated.

The fact that we have a much greater chance of developing cognitive impairments than the general population is certainly nothing to cheer about, but now that this information has come out, why would anyone want to object or opt out of the Settlement?

Think about it: according to the analysis of our actuaries and the NFL’s actuaries, former NFL players have a 3 in 10 chance of developing dementia or worse. That means those who opt out of the settlement have a 3 in 10 chance of becoming seriously ill and having no compensation to rely upon.

And what if you’re lucky enough to be one of the 7 in 10 who doesn’t get sick? Opting out is still a bad idea: what jury would award damages to someone who hasn’t been diagnosed with an injury?!

I look at it this way: we’re all at increased risk for getting dementia or some other terrible neurological disease. Under this agreement, we all get medical assessments to help us reduce that risk if at all possible. The 3 in 10 of us who end up getting sick, get paid. The 7 in 10 of us who don’t should be counting our lucky stars that we didn’t get sick!

This settlement may not be the best we could have hoped for but, if these actuarial reports prove anything, it’s that the settlement also offers us way too much to just throw away.

The alternative to this deal - removing yourself and your family from the benefits of Settlement and hoping that you can successfully sue the NFL – is not a risk I think anyone should take.

The problem with continuing our battle against the NFL (and still trying to cover all 20,000 players that are now in the Settlement) is that our lawyers would have had a long fight ahead to win in Court anything more than the benefits the NFL has put on the table with this settlement. For those guys that have indicated their desire to object or opt out, I hope they understand all the problems that our lawyers were faced with during negotiations. Issues like the Statute of Limitations, Causation, Preemption (CBA takes precedent) and the Assumption of Risk were significant hurdles to successfully winning our case in court.

Judge Brody understood these issues and that’s why she said the following when she gave the Settlement preliminary approval:

“First, the proposed Settlement was reached after the parties briefed and argued the threshold issue of whether Plaintiffs’ claims were preempted by federal labor law. Many, if not all, of Plaintiffs’ claims could have been dismissed at this early stage of the litigation if the NFL Parties prevailed on the preemption issue. The NFL Parties could also invoke a statute of limitations defense, given that many of the Retired NFL Football Players have not played for years, or even decades, and may have had their injuries or symptoms for the same amount of time. In addition, the doctrine of assumption of risk could pose a challenge to Plaintiffs’ claims in light of the risk of injury that is inherent in football. The NFL could also contest whether there existed a consensus in the scientific and medical communities at the time each player played sufficient to prove that the NFL Parties knew or should have known—and concealed—the cognitive risks of football-related concussions and sub-concussive hits. Plaintiffs also would face hurdles in proving their case-in-chief. If the litigation were to continue, Plaintiffs would be required to demonstrate that retired players’ injuries were caused by NFL football play, as opposed to unrelated causes, the natural aging process, or concussions or sub-concussive hits experienced in youth or college football. Therefore, the significant legal challenges facing Plaintiffs support preliminary approval of the proposed Settlement.”

Remember this important fact………she will oversee the Settlement once it goes into effect and she will hold the NFL’s feet to the fire in making sure the Baseline Assessment Program is implemented fairly and impartially and that the Compensation program is not abused by anyone.

Now that the data shows 3 in 10 of us will need that program someday, I don’t think we can ask for more than that.

Unfortunately, it is likely that some will………and in doing so, delay payments to the guys that need it the most - and even jeopardize the entire Settlement.

If there are too many objections and opt outs, the NFL could decide it would be better to take their chances in court. 

And lets say we jumped the four hurdles and finally got our case to trial years from now -  what will a jury think when they find out we gave up a billion dollar Settlement because it wasn’t enough?  

I don’t even want to go there.