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Jeff Nixon
October 9

Dear NFL players: Please, keep throwing the ball into the stands!

Whenever I see a current player throw a ball into the stands after a touchdown, I rejoyce and take a moment to think of all the former players that are benefitting from that simple act of exuberant defiance of the NFL rules. Players are fined for this "infraction". The NFL is afraid someone might get hurt. Translation: They might get sued.

It's only a $5,787 fine this year, so most players don't even think twice about tossing the ball into the stands because the average player salary is now 2 million dollars. That's more money in one year than the average worker makes in an entire lifetime. 

The second offense for throwing a ball into the stands $12,155, so it can start getting expensive if you're scoring a lot of touchdowns. If you want to see just how much certain fines can cost a player, for both first and second offenses,  you can go to this link: NFL's Schedule of Infractions & Fines. Starting in 2012, the fine minimums increase by 5 percent each year as stipulated in the NFL Collective Bargaining Agreement. The increases continue throughout the duration of the current CBA. By the year 2020, it will cost a player $7,386 to toss a ball in the stands - and for a second infraction it will cost a player $15,513!  You couldn't get that kind of money for a football if you pulled out a sharpie and autographed it before throwing it in the stands. 

So why do I rejoyce when a current player is fined?  Because, according to their website........"The fines collected do not go to the NFL, but instead go to programs for former players. The Players Association and the league have agreed to donate fine money through the NFL Foundation to the NFL Player Care Foundation and the Gene Upshaw P.A.T. (Player Assistance Trust) fund."  The bold emphasis in the first sentence is their's - not mine.

The Player Care Foundation and the Gene Upshaw Players Assistance Trust help former players who are facing financial hardships due to an unforeseen crisis, unaffordable medical bills and other services.   

The NFL claims that since 2009, about 4 million in annual fine money has gone to former players - and that's a very generous thing for the NFL and NFLPA to do, but they could do more.  

If every player that scored a touchdown would just throw the ball into the stands as a gesture of helping former players that are currently having a difficult time in their lives, it would raise over 6 million a year! Let's do the math. The average number of touchdowns over the past few years has been around 1,120 per season.  So 1,200  TD's multiplied by $5,787 equals 6,481,440. That's almost two an half million more than they are currently putting toward helping former players. 

On their website, the NFL gives everyone the impression that all the fine money is going toward helping former players.......but it isn't.  The NFL is only one fourth of the way through the season and the players have already racked up over 15.5 million in fines.  Last year the NFL fined players $25,752,094. 

Here is the current list of players and their 2015 fine amounts to date.

I guess the point I'm trying to make is that I believe more can be done to help out the former players that are really hurting. I'm not sure what the NFL does with the rest of the fine money, but I think a large portion is also used by NFL Charities to support other organizations and worthy causes throughout the United States. 

Former players are not looking for a hand-out, and we're not just sitting on our hands doing nothing to help our own brothers in need.  Gridiron Greats has been helping former players by providing money to former players that are having financial problems and Fourth & Goal has been right there beside them.  Bruce Laird, Sylvia Mackey, John Hogan and the Fourth and Goal Foundation donated $20,000 to Mike Ditka’s Gridiron Greats Assistance Fund in February. Both charities have done a tremendous amount of work helping former players and their families.

Matt Birk (Gridiron Greats), Sylvia Mackey (Fourth & Goal), Shannon Jordan (Gridiron Greats), Mike Ditka (Gridiron Greats)- Check Presentation from Fourth and Goal

At the press conference, Bruce Laird, President of Fourth and Goal said “The Fourth and Goal Foundation was founded in 2005 in the name of John Mackey and the many dozens of other NFL retired players and their families that were suffering with Dementia and other issues with life after football. It is all about NFL retired players helping each other first before looking to others to do the same. The NFL retired players community is an asset to all 32 NFL teams and the league. The mission of the Fourth and Goal Foundation was to be there with the financial assistance and the support for our own. We have accomplished that over our years of service and more. With our gift to Gridiron Greats who is doing that work for NFL retired players each and every day - we applaud them and the great work that Shannon Jordan and her staff does for the makers of this great game.”  

In addition to those two groups, there are numerous NFLPA and NFL Alumni Chapters throught the US that are doing great things in their communities and providing assistance to their alumni brothers that have fallen on hard times. 

We can all do more.........and we will!

So next time you see an active player throw a ball into the stands, don't think of the lucky fan that's getting a great souvenir, think of the former players that are being helped.      




October 8

What’s going on with the NFL concussion case?

As you all know, Shawn Wooden and Kevin Turner have been our two Class Representatives on the NFL Concussion litigation and the Settlement.

Shawn recently wrote an article posted at The Players’ Tribune website at this link: The Long Game

As a financial advisor, Shawn has a unique perspective on the NFL Concussion Settlement and he compares it to a long term investment strategy.

In the article Shawn says "I have the honor of representing retired players who do not currently suffer from serious cognitive conditions like dementia, Parkinson’s, Alzheimer’s or ALS, but who are worried and need protection for the future." 

I fall into the group that Shawn is representing. I know that I will not be eligible for an award right now. At the same time, I also know that NFL players are much more likely, than the general public, to develop serious cognitive impairments and I want to make sure that me and my family are covered in the event that I should develop symptoms at a later date. It's an insurance policy - one that I hope I never collect.   

Please read his article and feel free to post a comment at the bottom of the page.

Also, if you haven’t already done so, please visit the NFL Concussion Settlement website and click on the button at the bottom of the Homepage that says “Sign up for future information.”

Here is the link: NFL Concussion Settlement Website

October 4

Incognito? Not anymore!

in·cog·ni·toˌ inkäɡˈnēdō/ adjective & adverb 1. (of a person) having one's true identity concealed. synonyms: under an assumed name, under a false name, in disguise, disguised, under cover, in plain clothes, camouflaged, unidentified. 

Has there ever been a more ironic name for an NFL player? 

Incognito has garnered a lot of attention over the years for his dirty play.  He has "allegedly"gouged players' eyes, punched players, and did other notorious things at the bottom of the pile.  In 2009, NFL players voted Incognito as the dirtiest player in the league, according to a Sporting News poll.

He reminds me of another Buffalo Bill player - a teamate of mine back in 1980 - who was known as the dirtiest player in the NFL: Conrad Dobler.  I called him the "Doblerman" (as in Doberman Pincer) because he would rip your throat out on command. That command was usually the whistle to start the game. 

Like Incognito, Conrad had a bad reputation for going just a little above and beyond the call of duty, but when it came to protecting his QB (Joe Ferguson) and moving people out of the way for his RB (Joe Cribbs) the guy was second to none.        

You would think that after the bullying incident in Miami, Richie would have wanted to don a disguise and go undercover. In a way, his one year suspension from the NFL achieved that goal. No one heard his name and he kept a very low profile.     

I'm glad that the Buffalo Bills took a chance on Richie. I love a good comeback story  and right now he has my vote for comeback player of the year. 

Rex Ryan said he wanted his team to be a bully on the field - and what better way to show it then hiring the number one "percieved" bully in the NFL.  

The term "Bully" is not the best way to descibe Richie or any other player in the NFL that does a good job of pushing weaker opponents around like they were on roller skates going downhill. That is what the game is all about - dominating your opponent both physically and mentally.  

Yes, Richie has a way of getting into the head of other players - just like Conrad Dobler. If you can get your opponent thinking about how they can retaliate and get revenge, you have won half the battle. Is it morally right? Is it fair play? Is it good sportsmanship? 

When you're in a battle to win a war, all that crap goes out the window real fast.         

I think Richie Incognito has finally realized that his days in the NFL are numbered - even if he doesn't have another "off-field" incident - and that is what motivates him to stay strong and do what it takes to be in the best shape - both mentally and physically.     

According to his Wikipedia page: Incognito has a reputation as a reliable lineman who works hard to stay healthy. His methods to stay off the injured list include core exercises like Pilates, weekly trips to the chiropractor, massage therapy, and other non-traditional forms of conditioning. "The main thing is longevity, but the real goal of these methods of training is just staying on top of the small stuff," he said. "The body is all interconnected. The main goal is to stay on the field and remain ready to deal with the grind of the NFL. It's a violent sport, it's a collision sport and I take pride in being a professional and being prepared mentally and physically to play."

No one can argue with the fact the Mr. Incognito is a good player - maybe on of the best offensive lineman in the NFL...... right now.  I just hope he can find a way to contain the "Monster" that sometimes wants to get out. It's kind of like Bruce Banner trying to keep the "Hulk" in check. The Hulk's strength increases proportionally with his level of emotional stress - anger in particular. It's ok during a football game, but it's not that easy to turn off at the end of the game.  

I don't want to make excuses for Richie or any player that has exhibited bad judgement or violent behavior off the field, but the fact is researches have found that the thousands of small subconcussive blows to the head that many offensive and defensive linemen have incurred during their time in Pop Warner, High School, College and the NFL can reduce impulse control and can lead to uncontrollable fits of rage and anger.

Beast Mode is ok on the field.............but not so good off the field.

Now that current players understand this, they need to make sure they are surrounded by the right people that can help them diffuse situations that could arouse the BEAST within. If Richie, or any other player goes out for a night of fun, they would also be wise to have a bodyguard next to them making sure they don't get personally involved in any altercations. As Chris Carter would recommend....."Get a Fall Guy"  

No matter where Richie goes, people will recognize him........and some will taunt him and challenge him.  

He will never be incognito again. 

October 3

NFL Player's “Guaranteed Money” exceeds 2 Billion Annually!

The signing bonus is, without a doubt, the most important part of an NFL player’s contract, because the money is guaranteed. That money is theirs to keep, even if they never play another down in the NFL. It is one of several forms of guaranteed payouts players receive.

Others include the "roster" bonus, which pays a player a certain amount if he is on the roster on a specific day, and a "workout" bonus, which pays a player a specific amount if he works out with the team during the offseason.

Additionally, there are incentive bonuses, paid to players for attaining specific performance goals based on playing time and statistical achievements.

I did some analysis of the guaranteed signing bonus money by using, a website that has an extensive database of every NFL player contract. The website captures information on the length of a contract, the total dollar amount of a contract, the average annual amount of the contract, and the guaranteed amount of the contract – including the amount of guaranteed money as a percentage of the total contract.

For example, Eli Manning’s contract runs from 2015 to 2019 - a 4 year period. The total amount of his contract is $84 million. His average annual amount would be $21 million if he played every year of the contract. In reality, most players never make it to the last years of their contracts, so the salary portion of their contracts are, in many cases, never earned. That is why the bonus money is such an important part of a contract.

Eli Manning will receive $65 million in guaranteed money, which is 77.38% of his overall contract. That’s a very good percentage when you consider that the average for NFL players is approximately 25%.

I thought it would be interesting to see just how much money the NFL was guaranteeing players, so I sorted the information showing the guaranteed money for each player (from highest to lowest) over the length of their contracts. According to Sportrac data, there are 1,915 players currently under contract. You can see the chart I developed at this link: NFL Guaranteed Signing Bonus Money 

The total amount of guaranteed money for all players - over the length of their current contracts is more than 7.5 Billion, or $7,583,293,923 to be exact.

The length of player contracts vary from 1 to 8 years, but the average contract length for all players is 3.5 years, therefore the average annual amount of guaranteed money paid to NFL players is over 2 Billion, or to be exact $2,166,655,407.

Over 2 Billion in guaranteed money on a yearly basis! Remember, that doesn’t include salaries, incentives and other benefits that players can earn over the life of their contracts.

NFL players have come a long way since the league was established in 1920. Players formed an Association in 1956, but the owner’s and even the coaches did not recognize the new organization as exemplified by Coach Paul Brown’s statement that “it was both just and necessary that management could cut, trade, bench, blackball and own in perpetuity anyone and everyone that it wanted".

Unable to get the owner's attention and respect, the NFLPA threatened to bring an antitrust lawsuit against the league and in 1957 the Supreme Court ruled in favor of Radovich v. National Football League. “What I did opened doors”, Bill Radovich said. “It’s the first time that any professional sport was ever taken to court and beaten.” After the court case, Bill never worked in football again and died in 2002.

In 1968, the NFLPA declared itself an independent union, but many players were still dissatisfied with the lack of compensation teams provided and voted to strike on July 3, 1968 after official discussions with the owners stalled. Players also went on strike in 1970, 1974, 1982 and 1987, but ultimately, it was the anti-trust lawsuit won by Freeman McNeil – along with the threat of a class action lawsuit filed by Reggie White, that caused the parties to settle. The 1993 CBA finally gave players free agency and it opened the floodgates on player salaries, bonuses, incentives and benefits. None of this would have happened without the blood, sweat and tears of the older generation of players that formed the union, went on strike and sued the NFL to get better wages and benefits.

Since 1993, the revenues generated by the NFL and the NFLPA have continued to grow exponentially and other than the 2010 owner lockout, it has led to relatively peaceful labor negotiations. The NFLPA and the league have extended the 1993 CBA six times. It’s been 28 years since the last player strike!

I’m not sure if the active players really understand how good they have it…….or why they have it so good.

In addition to getting enormous salaries, bonuses and benefit increases, the current players have also benefitted from the concussion lawsuits that were filed by former players that forced the NFL and NFLPA to change numerous rules, regulations and policies to improve the health and safety of current players. Most notably, the rule changes that penalized and fined players for using their helmets as a battering ram. The current players now have five fewer weeks of organized off-season practice, limited on-field practice time, limited full-contact practices, elimination of two-a-day practices in pads, an increase in the number of days off of work and most importantly - concussion protocols that were instituted to prevent players from going back into games after they have been “dinged” or had their “bells rung.”  Nice ways of saying a player incurred a mild traumatic brain injury.

The days of the “How many fingers am I holding up” sideline diagnosis and the ammonia capsule treatments are gone forever.

In spite of all the things we have done to improve the health and wealth of the current players, former players are still getting the short end of the stick when pension benefits and other benefits are being negotiated. 

Former players have filed their own share of lawsuits in an attempt to get a fair amount of benefits from the NFL and NFLPA.  Even though the lawsuit filed by Carl Eller and 28 other former players was eventually dismissed, it sent a strong message and showed the NFLPA that many former players were upset about the way they were being treated by the union.

When he was first elected as Executive Director of the NFLPA, DeMaurice Smith said “We have a moral obligation to the retired players, we have a fiduciary obligation to the retired players. That obligation has to be both in words and deeds. If you fail in either one, you fail.

Apparently, there were a number of former players that believed the NFLPA failed. Some even went so far as to ask the AFL-CIO to expel the NFLPA from its membership. The letter from 20 players that included 7 Hall of Famers said “The NFLPA has disregarded and interfered with the rights and needs of its retired members at a time when their issues are of paramount importance. Its moral failures disgrace the principles and foundations of a union organization.”

Although many former players are appreciative of the increases that have been made to our pension plan and other benefit plans, many are concerned that the NFL and NFLPA have not gone far enough in addressing the inequality that still exists in the pensions of the pre-1993 players. The Legacy benefit increased pre-1993 pensions by $620 million. That’s $62 million a year when spread out over the 10 year term of the CBA.

To put that in perspective, the guaranteed bonuses for the top 11 players in the NFL are more than $648 million. That’s 28 million more than the entire Legacy benefit is costing.

Eli Manning 


Philip Rivers


Russell Wilson 


Colin Kaepernick


Cam Newton 


Marcell Dareus


Ndamukong Suh 


Tony Romo


Jay Cutler


Aaron Rodgers


Calvin Johnson


Do the NFL and NFLPA have the money to give former players another boost in their pensions? Of course they do. If they can pay the active players over 2 Billion annually in bonus money, I think they can find a way to increase the pensions of players that sacfificed so much to build the foundations of the NFL and the NFLPA. 

The really important question is…….will they?

I think they will........but it will only happen if enough of us join together and tell them exactly why we deserve it!    

September 26

Former NFL Player Health Care: Maybe it's time to B.T.M.F.D!

Nolan Harrison, the Senior Director of Former Player Services, recently wrote an article about health care for former players that you can read at this link: Health Insurance Redefined for Former NFL Players.  

Nolan served on the NFLPA’s executive committee from 2000-02 and after retiring from the NFL he also served on the NFLPA former players board of directors and was the chairman of the health committee.  

In his article, Nolan says “Depending on when they played, some NFL Retirees can obtain a few years of health coverage through the NFL immediately after leaving the game. If today’s players complete three seasons in the league, they can receive five years of health insurance when they retire. The trouble is, some health issues do not manifest until several years later, and players who complete less than three seasons are on their own for coverage.

Depending on when they played” - is the key phrase in that statement. The NFLPA has been drawing the lines on who gets benefits for quite some time. They are deciding who the haves and the have-nots are in the health care benefit system they have established. 

Nolan goes on to say that “Affordable coverage is now accessible to the 17,000 NFL Retirees estimated to be alive today, but many of them do not know where to start. It is important for these men to know there are resources to help them obtain the medical insurance they need.

I think most players know where the resources are. The “real trouble" is this: The resources and benefits have only been allocated to a select group of players that were covered in the 2006 and 2011 CBA’s.

Nolan forgot to mention a few things about health care for former players in his article.

First of all, he forgot to say that the current CBA gives any vested player who retires after 2011, the ability to stay on the NFL's group health insurance policy - just as long as they continue to pay the premiums. I wrote about this benefit at this link: Current NFL Players Offered Lifetime Medical

In the 2011 CBA, this new benefit is referred to as the Extended Post-Career Medical and Dental Benefits. After a vested former player’s five (5) free years of health insurance have been exhausted, they can continue their coverage under the NFL’s group health insurance program. This insurance is only for former players who are vested and have a credited season in 2011 or thereafter, It’s COBRA coverage for life! 

The benefits offered under this health insurance policy are very generous and you would be hard pressed to find another insurance program that comes anywhere close to offering the same benefits and services for the same price - and that’s because the purchasing power of the NFL is much better than individual players can get through the ACA (Affordable Care Act) commonly referred to as “Obamacare”.  Nolan and the NFLPA have been actively soliciting former players to buy health insurance available under the ACA by using a company called "Working America Health Care".   

In his article, Nolan also fails to mention that the more recent retirees also have another benefit called the “Gene Upshaw NFL Player Health Reimbursement Account” that was established in the 2006 CBA. The Plan has over $300 Million in assets that are payable to a select group of former players.  It can be used to pay for the premiums of any health insurance policy and any out-of-pocket healthcare expenses like prescriptions and over-the-counter medications like aspirin, ibuprofen, or even a top-of-the-line jacuzzi to help with aches and pains, or a Segway  to help them get around, or just about anything else that can be considered a health-related item. 

A player is eligible for the HRA Plan if he earned a credited season under the Bert Bell / Pete Rozelle NFL Player Retirement Plan for 2006, or for any year after that and has a total of three or more credited seasons, or his last credited season was either 2004 or 2005 and he had a total of eight or more credited seasons. Players receive $25,000 for each of their credited seasons ($30,000 for the League years 2016-2020). 

To give you an idea of just how beneficial this can be for certain former players, a 10 year player who played from 1995 to 2004 will have approximately $250,000 in their account. The maximum amount a player can accrue in their Health Reimbursement Account is $350,000. Again, this can be used for premiums, co-pays, or just about anything else that is health related.

Don't get me wrong, I think it’s fantastic that some former players have access to five free years of health insurance after retiring - and then have access to lifetime health insurance through the NFL Group Health Insurance Policy - and then are able to pay the premiums for that policy with the money in their Gene Upshaw Health Reimbursement Account. But why did the NFLPA conveniently forget to mention all these former player benefits in their promotion of health care for former players? Mainly because most former players are not eligible for those benefits. 

Instead of working to include us in those benefit plans, they are pushing the older former players to get health insurance coverage under the ACA - at our own expense.

Check out the flyer they are using to advertise the company that will help us navigate the health care waters and bring us to the promised land….. 

I wonder how much the organization “Working America Health Care” had to pay the NFLPA to get their endorsement and their recommendation? 

The NFLPA has defined exactly who receives health care benefits in the last two CBA's and I’m sorry to say that most of the former players reading this article are not included - or should I say covered. Nolan and the NFLPA will point you in the right direction, but other than that, you’re on your own!

Back when the NFLPA was negotiating the 2006 CBA , Hall of Famer Joe DeLamielleure wrote an open letter to Drew Brees, where he said “Not one single player, before 1993, had 5 free years of health insurance after they retired, not to mention coverage for their wives! You want retired players to be on your team. You gotta be kidding me! On every team that I ever played on, we all had the same game plan. Well, your game plan is a lot different than the one most retired players want to see executed. Could one of the reasons you want us to join the “Team” be because the NFL owners have discontinued their contributions to your Annuity Plan, Second Career Savings Plan, Tuition Assistance Plan, Health Reimbursement Account? Well, if you want us to fight for your benefits, you better start fighting for ours!”

If the NFLPA really wants to help redefine health insurance for former players, they should start by working to include more former players in their benefit plans.

I’ve been very fortunate to have health insurance coverage for me and my family (through my employers) for the past 40 years - and I would bet that there are a number of former players that can say the same thing. But, what about the guys that didn’t have coverage before Obamacare? The guys that went bankrupt, or had to spend their life savings on an illness, an injury, or a hospital stay - like the ones mentioned in the NFLPA flyer? And why can't the current players (members of the NFLPA) that have benefitted from our labor strikes and our anti-trust lawsuits do something about the discrepancy in our former player health care benefit system.          

Chris Rock said something on an episode of Real Time with Bill Maher that reveals - in dramatic fashion - how important it is to have good health care insurance:

“I had my father get sick when I was 22. And I was poor, alright. And my father had an ulcer, and it exploded and you know all these toxins get in your blood. And basically, my father died, whatever, 50 days after his ulcer. So I had a father get sick while I was poor. My mother got sick when I was rich. And my mother, you know... I don't really want to get into it, but my mother was sicker than my father. And my mother's alive. My mother's fine, OK? I remember going to the hospital to see my mother and wondering, 'Was I in the right place?' Like, this was a hotel. Like it had a concierge, man.  People don't understand... if the average person really knew the discrepancy in the health care system, there'd be riots in the streets, OK? They would burn this mother f***er down!

Now you know what B.T.M.F.D. stands for!

There’s a huge discrepancy in the retired player health care benefit system. The NFL owners and many of today's players are wealthy enough to help out their less fortunate brethren in the next CBA or maybe even now, because there may still be money left in the Joint Contribution Fund In the 2011 CBA, the NFL Players Association negotiated a $240 million pool of money under the Joint Contribution Fund to provide programs, benefits and services for former players. What those services would be - and how they would be delivered - was, and still is, solely at the discretion of the NFLPA. To date those services and benefits have been given mostly to the post 1993 players via the "Trust" program and the pension increase that was given to former players just last year. Good for them - now it's time to share some of the wealth with the older retired players. 

I think the NFLPA believes that the "Legacy Benefit" was good enough to pacify the pre-1993 players and balance out any inequality that existed in the pension plan.  But as we all know, it did not go nearly far enough in addressing our concerns and that is why the wives of Hall of Fame players have called on the NFL and NFLPA to meet with them and talk about the issues. Time is running out for the pre '93 generation of NFL players and the "Battle for Benefits" is starting to heat up.  

Since 1993, the NFLPA has never been flagged for piling on benefits like the Annuity Plan, Second Career Savings Plan, Tuition Assistance Plan, Severance Plan, and many others that are too numerous to mention in this article. The post-1992 players were also the beneficiaries of free agency and with it, the enormous escalation of salaries.  So, when it comes to the health and well being of former players, they have the power to address these issues and tell the head of the Union, DeMaurice Smith, what they want him to negotiate and push for in the CBA. At the same time, Mr. Smith wants to make sure he continues to bring home the bacon for active players and - in doing so - stay in their good graces. That's how you get re-elected and maintain the status quo

While we are talking about health issues, I would like to remind the active players that it was the older generation of players and our advocacy over the concussion issue that was the real catalyst in making the game safer for them, so now it's time for them to acknowledge that and start bringing home the bacon for the guys that built the NFLPA and were blackballed, waived and hung out to dry for their union activities. Not one single player has had to walk a picket line for 28 years!  As they would say over at ESPN........C'MON MAN!  

The NFLPA has a real nice slogan that says “One Team” and it signifies that all active and retired players are united.  Unfortunately, on the issue of health insurance and health care benefits, nothing could be further from the truth.  On behalf of the older generation of former players, I would like to borrow a line from Shakespeare and say, “It’s a tale told by an idiot, full of sound and fury, signifying nothing.” 

If the active players and the current NFLPA administration won't work to help the older generation of players by providing money to purchase health care and pay for other health care costs, and not just give us a point - in what they consider to be the right direction - then maybe it’s time for us to B.T.M.F.D!

Just in case anyone might be thinking about taking that literally, I do not condone violence, or playing with fire. I received third degree burns from playing with firecrackers when I was just 8 years old. I was in the hospital for two months and required a skin graph for the wound on my left hip. I would not wish that upon my worst enemy.  

Thank God my family had health insurance!    

September 22

Buffalo's losing streaks - and how they end!

The New England Patriots have dominated the Buffalo Bills for over a decade and Tom Brady has won 24 of the 27 games he has played against us.  I say "us" because even though I no longer play in the NFL - and even though our fans are not out on the field playing in the game, it still feels like "we" lose when the Bills lose. I take it personally and I have a tendency to let the losses affect me emotionally - as I know many fans do.  I know it's not rational, but my ego takes a hit when "we" lose.  I don't feel like "Talking Proud" and don't feel like hearing the "Shout" song until we're ready to play the next game.  Yes, hope springs eternal and somehow I find a way to be optimistic - once again! 

As bad as Bills fans feel about all the losses to our nemesis the New England Patriots, there was once an old nemesis that we hated even more - the Miami Dolphins.    

As the Buffalo Bills travel to Miami this Sunday, I thought I would take some of the younger fans on a trip down memory lane......a lane that the older generation of Bills fans would rather not drive down, but as the old saying goes "Time heals all wounds" and this story began 45 years ago - plenty of time for healing.  So let's go back to October 18, 1970 when we lost a home game against the Dolphins 33-14 and the "Streak" began.  

During the 1970s, we did not beat the Miami Dolphins. We still hold the longest losing streak to a single opponent in NFL history.  See how I keep saying "we" instead of "they?" That's because we are part of the the team and when they win, we win..... and when they lose, we lose.      

As the streak got longer and longer, Bills fans became more and more obsessed with beating Miami and their quarterback,  Bob Griese, who had led them to 20 straight victories over Buffalo. Their head coach, Don Shula was hated by our fans with the same fervor and passion that current Bills fans have toward Bill Belichik. Maybe hate is too strong of a word, but I sure as heck don't know any Bills fans that love him.

We found new and exciting ways to lose to Miami every year during the streak. In 1979, my rookie season, we thought we finally had their number.  With only seconds remaining in the game, we lined up for the winning field goal. The score was Miami 9 and the Bills 7.  The field goal would put us on top 10-9, but as fate would have it, Tom Dempsey's field goal was wide left.  The joke around the NFL was that he missed it by half a foot.  The streak would continue for another year. 

In the 1980 season opener, we finally got the "500 pound Gorilla" off our backs. Trailing 7-3 going into the fourth quarter, we scored two touchdowns in the final 3:42 of the game to secure a 17-7 win. Fans stormed the field and tore down the goalposts after the game - a clear sign that the fans were feeling the losing streak even more than the team itself.

Ralph Wilson didn't care about the destruction of property. "It’s the biggest win this club’s ever had," he said. "Bigger than the AFL championships. I’ll be happy to buy new goal posts."

It was a game I'll never forget.  I set a team record with 4 takeaways - a fumble recovery and three interceptions. I intercepted Bob Griese twice.  They benched him and went with Don Strock in the second half of the game. It would be the beginning of the end for Bob Griese's Hall of Fame career. He retired at the end of the season.

Here's a Youtube clip of a young Bryant Gumbel giving updates on the game:   

In his book entitled Buffalo Bills: The Complete Illustrated History, Sal Maiorana quoted me saying, "It was so nice to see us finally beat them, Not so much for me, but for the older veteran guys that had played for ten years and had lost every single game." 

I should have added "Not so much for me, but for the fans that had endured 10 straight seasons of watching the disappointing and heartbreaking losses to the Dolphins

Eventually, the tide will turn and Buffalo will start to beat New England on a regular basis, but it may take the retirement of Tom Brady before we see that happen. Unfortunately, it happens to all players.  We get injured, we get older, we get slower and then........we either retire, or we get replaced. 

That's something time cannot heal.      

September 21

Concussion lawsuit against NFLPA is dismissed

Last year I wrote an article about a concussion lawsuit that was filed against the NFLPA.

Unfortunately, that lawsuit was recently dismissed by a federal judge in Missouri. You can read all the details at the following link: NFLPA gets concussion lawsuit dismissed

The lawsuit against the NFLPA was almost identical to the one that we filed against the NFL. In their defense of the lawsuit the Union said "The NFLPA has made the health and safety of its members a priority and the advancements in professional football on concussion education, prevention and treatment are a result of our efforts."

I have to disagree with that statement. Especially the last six words that I underlined.

I believe the main reason that the health and safety of players - with respect to advancements in concussion education, prevention and treatment – are a result of former player efforts.

As I mentioned in previous articles, the concussion problem was not a major concern for Gene Upshaw who, in spite of all the research and evidence, said "I think we're just a reflection of society. I don't want to take that next leap to say, you know, football caused dementia. I just don't believe that."

If it wasn’t for the efforts of......... 

•   Former players that went public with their cognitive impairment problems, 

•   Former players that went in front of Congress to testify about their condition and the condition     of other players that have traumatic brain injuries, 

•   Former players that were interviewed by reporters from hundreds of national and local          newspapers and radio stations about the effect the concussions were having on former players, 

•   Former players that filed lawsuits against the NFL and the NFLPA  

...........none of this would have happened.  At least, not anytime soon. 

That’s the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth – so help me God!

The NFL says they don’t believe pro football caused dementia either………but even so, they’re willing to pay former players almost a billion dollars for the right to say they’re not liable. 

By accepting the NFL Concussion Settlement, the former players that did not opt out of the agreement have given up the right to sue the NFL over the concussion issue at any time in the future. Some players did not want to give up that right, so they opted out of the Settlement. 

The NFL could have taken the concussion litigation a lot further, but I think they were tired of the public perception that they weren’t doing enough to help the guys that were suffering from brain injuries. The tipping point came when former players started martyring themselves to bring more attention to the issue.

Even with all the pressure from Congress, the public and the former players, the NFL could have continued to fight our lawsuits. Remember, the court never ruled on the issue of “Preemption” which - if we had lost - would have sent our grievances back to the process that was established in previous CBA’s. It would have been a disaster for former players, because then we would have been bound by terms of those agreements which require players to file disability claims within a certain amount of time. That alone would have denied thousands of players the ability to even file a claim.

In the recent NFLPA concussion case, the judge found that the claims are barred by the federal Labor Management Relations Act because they were not timely filed under the six-month deadline that applies to claims under the Labor Management Relations Act.

In the Judge’s order - which can be seen at this link: Order Denying Remand he said “Even if the duties of the union are only to current members of the collective bargaining unit, the events occurred while Plaintiffs were current members of the collective bargaining unit. Regardless, if this court construes the matter to arise under fair representation..., the relevant events occurred at least at some point during each of Plaintiffs’ careers. The fact Plaintiffs are now retirees does not preclude preemption of claims based on events which occurred while Plaintiffs were members of the bargaining unit.”

It sounds like we lost on a technicality, but a win is a win and the NFLPA has been winning a lot of cases lately. This case and cases that the NFL have recently won on the issue of preemption, become what are known as legal "precedents” – previous cases that can be used in support of legal arguments in other cases……… like our concussion lawsuits against the NFL.

The former players that opted out of the NFL Concussion Settlement will have to contend with these “precedents” if they decide to continue their litigation against the NFL. I hope they do continue their cases and I hope they are successful in getting to “discovery”. This is what scared the NFL more than anything else – finding out what they really knew about the problem of concussions, when they knew it, and what they did (or didn't do) about the problem.

I’m just glad that many of the recent rulings on preemption came after we settled with the NFL; otherwise it may have emboldened the owners to continue the fight in court.

Former players didn’t get everything we wanted in the NFL Settlement, but it’s a hell of a lot better than the results we got in our litigation against the NFLPA – so far.  I say that, only because there is still a possibility that the former players could win an appeal – if they decide to go that route.

The NFL Concussion Settlement is currently being appealed, but in my opinion the chance of winning that appeal, or an appeal of the NFLPA concussion lawsuit, are like trying to win a game where your team is down by 32 points. It’s happened once before............

.............but there's not much of a chance it will happen again.

I just had to find a way to sneak my Buffalo Bills into the article.  

Forgive me.

September 17

Former Players solicited for “pre-payments” on NFL Concussion Settlement Awards

One for you......Two for me!

While we are all waiting for the appeals of the NFL Concussion Settlement to run their course, I wanted to alert you to the fact that there are some businesses that are soliciting former players and telling them they can receive a portion of their expected settlement award now - in return for less money when the actual awards become available.

My advice – don’t do it!

These companies typically take anywhere from 25% to 50% of the entire award.

Here is what one of the firms say in their solicitation:

“Many former NFL players have had a hard time working and supporting themselves due to physical and neurological impairments caused by NFL injuries. For those who are currently under financial strain, the NFL Concussion Lawsuit Settlement and potential monetary compensation stemming from it is not just a luxury, it's a necessity. The time it will take for the Appeals and claims process to run its course and for funds to be disbursed to retired NFL players that qualify is still unknown. Because of this, many retired NFL players are left in limbo to figure out how to make it financially while they wait for the legal process to conclude.

However, this news is not all discouraging; players who qualify can receive a portion of their expected settlement funding now.  _____________________ is providing cash advances to former NFL players involved in the NFL Lawsuit Settlement under the current Settlement agreement while they wait for the case to resolve.”

As you can see, I have “blanked out” the name of the company – lest anyone be tempted to go this route.

Obviously, this delay in getting awards to former players and families is causing some financial hardships, but I would caution anyone from taking this drastic step - even if they are in dire need. Keep in mind, we have other options like the PAT (Player Assistance Trust) fund, the NFL Player Care Foundation and Gridiron Greats that may be able to help.

This reminds me of the problems that occurred when former players took their pensions early - some as early as age 45. Although they received their monthly checks sooner, the amount they received was reduced by as much as 54% from what it would have been had they waited until the normal retirement age of 55. For those of you who can wait until age 65 the amount goes up 260%. For example, if you were eligible for a $1,000 monthly check at age 55, the amount would increase to $2,600 at age 65.

It is disheartening to know that some former players will get lured into the “Money Now” scheme.

The NFL owners used it to perfection in the NFL Player Strike of 1982.

I wonder what would have happened if we had held out and forced the cancellation of the entire season.

We’ll never know, but one things for sure……..the lawyers got paid for their services.

September 15

Celebrating the Buffalo Bills 1964 & 1965 AFL Championship teams

This past weekend our Buffalo Bills Alumni Association held our annual VIP Party, Tent Party and Golf Tournament. I don’t think I’ve ever had a better time celebrating with former players. It all started with our VIP party at the Seneca Niagara Casino where we honored the only pro football teams that won championships in Buffalo. A lot of the guys that played on those 1964 & 1965 AFL Teams were in town to be honored for what they accomplished during that time. Paul McGuire MC’d the event at the Casino and he was – as he always is – very entertaining. Check out the following video clip of all the guys that came from near and far to be with us.

The following day we had a Tailgate Tent Party right before the Bills vs. Colts game where everyone got together and had a few drinks, shared a few memories, told some old stories…..most of which cannot be publish here. All former players know what I’m talking about. We were no angels. We played hard and we partied hard. Sometimes the stories became legendary, but I’ll save that for another day and another time.

The game itself couldn’t have been better. The Bills, under their new coach Rex Ryan - and their new QB Tyrod Taylor - corralled the Colts 27-14.  It had all the Alumni “Dancing in the Suites”...........all day and all night long.

To finish out our Alumni festivities we had our Celebrity Golf Tournament on Monday..... and the weather was perfect. I only wish I could say the same thing about some of my alumni brother’s golfing skills! If a picture is worth a thousand words, then these videos say it all.

Most of the guys from the Buffalo Bills Championship Teams will tell you they didn’t get paid enough to buy a ticket out of town when their playing days were over. For most of them, that doesn’t really matter anymore. What matters is the lasting friendships that were made……and continue to this day. It’s sad to know that many of the players from those Championship teams have passed away, but we do our best keep them alive in our memories. Their stories will echo through time and will continue to be told by their families, their friends and their alumni brothers.

Listen closely and you can hear Tom Day, Jack Kemp, Jim Braxton, Cookie Gilchrist and many others telling us that they fought the good fight………..they rest in peace……. and they can’t wait to see us again in the great hearafter.

There’s gonna be some amazing stories told on that day!                   

September 11

Will Smith Tackles the NFL - but the show must go on!

Will Smith tackles the NFL in the movie "Concussion." The film is based on the GQ article "Game Brain and follows Dr. Bennet Omalu and his discovery of the brain disease CTE in two former NFL players - Mike Webster and Terry Long. 

Dr. Bennet Omalu and Dr. Julian Bailes

Here is a short excerpt from the GQ article quoting Dr. Omalu:  "I was naive. There are times I wish I never looked at Mike Webster’s brain. It has dragged me into worldly affairs I do not want to be associated with. Human meanness, wickedness, and selfishness. People trying to cover up, to control how information is released. I started this not knowing I was walking into a minefield. That is my only regret."

The film is set for a Christmas Day release - not the kind of present the NFL was hoping to receive this year. 

The GQ article is a "must read" and the film is a "must see" for every active and former NFL football player. You can also watch an interview with Dr. Omalu from the Frontline documentary League of Denial at this link: Dr. Bennet Omalu

The Bleacher Report - one of the most prominent sports websites on the internet - wrote an article about the movie entitled: League concerned fans will hate NFL after watching Will Smith concussion movie.   Mike Freeman, the Lead NFL Writer for Bleacher Report discusses how the film could impact the NFL.

Regardless of how fans feel about the NFL, there is one thing the movie will not do. It will not stop anyone from watching the trainwrecks that occur on every snap of the football and it will not stop people from attending football games. America is addicted to violence and I'll bet my bottom dollar that attendance at NFL games will remain steady, despite the fact that there will be no TV blackouts in 2015

The National Football League is the largest live spectator sport in the world (excluding auto racing) in terms of average attendance. Despite the recession and rising ticket prices, the NFL had 17,522,993 live viewers for the 2014 season - an increase of more than 500,000 over the 2010 season of 17,010,511 live viewers. 

Although we haven't digressed to the point of the Roman Empire where gladiators routinely fought to the death in the Colosseum, it's sad to know that CTE is almost worse, because it's a slow death that leads to dementia and Alzheimer's disease and it not only destroys the life of the player - but in many cases it severely affects the lives of their family and friends.

As much as I know now about the harmful effects of playing football, do I regret playing and would I encourage anyone not to play?  No - with one exception.  I don't like the idea of very young children playing football, because their brains are still developing.

In the final analysis, I guess you could say I'm addicted to football.  I knew it was bad for me, but I did it anyway. As a player, how can you beat the "high" of seeing and hearing 80,000 fans cheering for you as you come down that tunnel at Ralph Wilson Coliseum......excuse me, I meant stadium. 

The gladiator games lasted for nearly a thousand years. 

Does anyone really think a movie is going to make anyone think twice about getting their fix? 




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