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Jeff Nixon
November 25

Thank You!

Dear Alumni:

Thanksgiving is upon us and I wanted to let each of you know just how much I appreciate your comments and advice on all the issues that affect former players.

It’s been 10 years since I first began to write and blog about the NFL Pension Plan, the Disability Plan and other topics of interest to former players. During that time, I have had the honor and pleasure of writing for the NFL Alumni Association, Fourth and Goal Unites, the Nixon Report and now Sportsblog – a website that gives professional athletes from all pro sports the opportunity to express their opinions and communicate with the fans and our peers.

I call my blog “NFL Retired Players United” because it was - and still is - my hope that we can continue to improve the lives of former players and their families by working together. We all know that there is strength in numbers and we have seen, first hand, the power of our voices when we unite on an issue. There is nothing we can’t do if we put our minds and hearts to the task.

My passion and my goal as a blogger has been to disseminate information to as many former players as possible. Thomas Jefferson once said that “Information is the currency of democracy.” Freedom of speech is essential to our democracy and it often helps us find the truth, even though there are times when some people would prefer to kill the messenger.  I try to be as objective as possible about the problems that face the retired player community, but I also have strong opinions and not everyone will agree with me – which is one of the things that make our country great. 

I know that there are some folks that would not be disappointed to see me disappear and stop reminding former players that there is still a huge disparity in the pre and post 1993 player pensions and benefits

Although I have been critical of the NFL and NFL Players Association, I am also thankful for the fact that they have gone back and increased our pension benefits in every new CBA. They are not required to do this, but they know that former players are the foundation of the league. It doesn’t hurt that the greatest players in the history of pro football – the Hall of Famers – were united and pushed for better pensions that culminated in the creation of the Legacy Benefit. You can read about that effort here. 

There are hundreds of former players and non-player advocates that have been instrumental in providing services and pushing for reforms and improvements to our benefits. Although I may not always see eye-to-eye with all of the groups and individuals, I have always appreciated their desire to help former players and I know in my heart they also want what is best for us. I wish I could name everyone, but there are several groups and individuals that have stood out – and they deserve our recognition and a heartfelt thank you. If I left someone off the list that you think deserves special recognition, please post a comment at the bottom of the article.

Here they are:

Gridiron Greats  - Mike Ditka

Fourth and Goal Foundation - Bruce Laird

Retired NFL Players Congress - Marvin Cobb, Bob Grant, Bernie Parrish, George Visger, Roger Staubach

Retired Players Association  – Carl Eller

NFL Alumni Association – Joe Pisarcik, Director and Board of Directors  and Chapter Presidents 

NFLPA Former Player Administration   – Nolan Harrison III, Director, Steering Committee and the Chapter Presidents 

Dave Pear’s BlogDave Pear 

Dignity After Football - Brent Boyd  

The TRUST - Bahati VanPelt, Director / Senior Captain Charlie Batch and the TRUST Captains 

NFL Player EngagementCharles Way and Keith Elias, Directors and the NFL Legends Directors and Coordinators 

NFL Concussion Class RepresentativesShawn Wooden and Kevin Turner 

And lastly, I want to thank all the wives that have assisted us in our efforts. Without their support and commitment, none of this would be possible. 

Your Alumni brother,

Jeff  Nixon

November 22

The Buffalo Bills control their own destiny

We hear players and coaches use the phrase “we need to control our own destiny” all the time - and for good reason. There is no magic pill, or lucky charm,  or heavenly power that decides who wins or who loses games in the NFL.  And no……God does not hate the Bills, although it may seem like Bills fans are like the biblical character Job - being tested by the current 15 year playoff drought and four straight Superbowl losses.

It’s not always true, but the best way to determine the future is by what you do today. I will always remember what George Allen, coach of the Redskins, used to say: The future is now! He was absolutely right……..and if he were alive today, he would show you his Superbowl ring to prove it.

For the Buffalo Bills, the future could be determined on Monday night against the Patriots. Their path to the playoffs is guaranteed if they win the rest of their games. If they win more than half of their remaining games (4 out of the next 7) they will still have a good chance of being one of the two wild card teams. But, good coaches don’t let their players even think about the future. They make them focus on one game at a time and right now they have the defending Superbowl champions standing in their way of making the playoffs.

Even though Rex Ryan said They're going to win the division. I don't see them losing four games. I hope I'm wrong, but I don't see it happening” he’s not conceding that the Bills will be one of those four loses, or that they will make the same mistakes they did in the first game. He made that perfectly clear when he told reporters “…..we’re a different team in the fact that I know this team [New England] a lot better. I know who we are. I think we were kind of a little embarrassed about how things went down. We’re not that team. We want to be a team that prides themselves on playing our game and not getting caught into the other part of it. And that’s what we’ll show Monday. I think our team is going to show that, I think we’ll play a lot smarter than we are. We know we can’t beat that team by giving them the type of penalties we gave them. And that’s not what we want to be known for, anyway.

I like the fact that Rex is not bragging about his players, or making any negative comments about New England’s players. He’s not giving the Pats any bulletin board material.  He doesn’t care about the past or the future. He’s only concerned about what the Bills need to do…. now.  

When Rex said "I know who we are" it reminded me of the Greek Philosopher Plato, who commonly used the expression "Know Thyself" to convey the importance of understanding exactly who you are.  Good teams have an identity, and I think the Bills have decided to discard the "Bully" image and replace it with the image of a "Bull" - like the one that sits in front of the Stock Exchange on Wall Street. 

The use of "bull" and "bear" to describe markets comes from the way the animals attack their opponents. A bull thrusts its horns up into the air while a bear swipes its paws down. These actions are metaphors for the movement of a market. If the trend is up, it's a bull market. If the trend is down, it's a bear market. Right now the Buffalo Bills are trending upward and they can control the market if they just keep winning.   

As a former player, I always hated being in the position of hoping that other teams would lose, or win, in order for us to make the playoffs. It often distracts a team from the business at hand. I’ve seen players during the middle of games looking at the scoreboard to see the score of other games - hoping (and sometimes praying) that the football gods will come to their rescue.

The Bills coaches and players can only rescue themselves and one of the best ways they can do that is by reducing the number of penalties they are committing. They are on a record setting pace and if they want to have any chance of beating the Pats, they need to be more disciplined. Coaches often get the blame when their players are penalized, but every player knows the rules and every player must be held accountable for their own actions. Sure, a coach can bench a player that is continually penalized, but that’s not always in the best interest of the team. Remember that a second-stringer is riding the pine for a reason. Obviously, you want your best players in the game, but it probably wouldn’t hurt to send a message to the rest of the team by sending one of your best players to the corner of the bench for a little “timeout” - especially when the flag is for a personal foul. Are you listening Mr. Hughes?

As a coach, there are some things you can control and others you can’t – like injuries. The Bills have been without some of their best players in a few of the games they’ve lost, but now they are have no excuses and that’s why I like they’re chances in this game.

Here are some strategic ways for the Bills to control their own destiny in their Monday night matchup against the Patriots:

On offense:

• Move Tyrod Taylor around and don’t let him sit in the pocket all night. I love the bootleg. It gives Tyrod the option of passing or running. They need to use it at least 6 times. When the Pats put a “spy” on Tyrod to try and prevent him from bootlegging - like the Jets did - the Bills should utilize the underneath “shovel pass” to counter it.

• Use the read option. Tyrod has displayed running skills that are better than Russell Wilson's. I know it puts the QB at greater risk of injury - just ask RG III – but just as long as a QB knows when to run and when to slide, he should be ok. I think Tyrod has learned that lesson.

• Get Sammy Watkins involved in the game early with quick screens and short passes. If they start to hug him tight, Tyrod should throw some deep passes to keep them honest. They could also do this in reverse. It all depends on what the Pats secondary is doing in their coverage schemes.

• The running game has been effective. LeSean McCoy is on fire, especially when he can bounce outside. Even if the Pats put “eight in the box” the Bills should stick with the ground game. It controls the clock, keeps the ball out of Brady’s hands and gives the defense some needed rest.

• Use Carlos “Danger” Williams between the tackles. He’s not as effective on outside runs, but he’s a beast up the middle. Get him the record for 7 consecutive games with a touchdown. That will quiet the crowd – which is also a key to your offense being able to hear the signal calling.

On Defense:

• Sacking Brady and keeping him off-balance by constantly pressuring him is what everyone will tell you is the key to beating the Pats, but you can only do that if you are willing to take chances by blitzing him. The Bills should do that on at least 40% of their plays. Sure, Brady will have more chances to throw the deep ball, but I would rather see the Bills die by the sword, then die by a thousand cuts.

• Brady threw for over 500 yards in the first game. Even so, you can count on Belichick to try and run the ball early in this game. They’re without Edelman, so they will mix in a lot more runs. If the Bills are in a blitzing mood, it could also help them stuff the run, but it will be imperative that the Bills safeties are ready to tackle Blount if he breaks through the line. There is no substitute for “sure” tackling.

• Don’t let the Pats get started with their patented “bubble screen.” They are the best team in the NFL for using this play to clip off some big yardage. On a few occasions, the Bills should designate a cornerback to immediately attack the play on the snap of the ball and disrupt it before the blockers can even get into them. If it’s not a screen, then the attacking cornerback would immediately fall back into zone coverage.

• Linebackers need to “blast” the crossing route. What does that mean? The Pats love the short crossing route. Every week they burn teams with it. When Amendola starts his route very shallow and continues across the field, the linebacker on the opposite side of the formation needs to be alerted and then put a bullseye on him and blast his ass (before the ball is thrown and within the 5 yard area). This will make him think twice before coming across the next time.

• The Pats are also the best team in the NFL for using the “pick” on passing plays – especially in the red zone. It’s illegal, but their receivers have been taught very well to act like they’re running a route, when in fact it is a designed play to get a defensive back off of coverage. It only works on man-to-man coverage. The Bills should disguise their man-to-man coverage and play a zone-type coverage on the two receivers that are using the pick play. It gets trickier when there are three receivers on the same side of the formation – but it can be done.

• Be prepared at all times for one of Belichick’s trick plays. If in doubt, call a time out!

• Stop Gronkowski from getting off the line of scrimmage without being harassed. A free release off the LOS for this guy is like letting a freight train get a full head of speed. Hard to stop once they get rolling. The best way to disrupt him is to get right in his face on the line and get hands on him to slow him up. That’s easier said than done, so whenever possible, they should try to double him - with one player under and one player over the top.

If the Bills can find a way to win this game, it would be a great first step toward the playoffs and it would give them a lot more control over their own destiny.

November 16

It's High Noon for NFL players appealing Concussion Settlement

On August 17, 2011 my friend and University of Richmond alumni brother, Ray Easterling filed the first federal class action lawsuit over the concussion issue. Shortly after that initial filing, Ray, myself and many other former player advocates began encouraging players to retain lawyers and file individual lawsuits. Over 5,000 former players eventually joined the posse and over the next few years our search for justice finally culminated in 20,000 former players being included in a Settlement that was approved on April 22, 2015.          

As most of you know, I recommended the approval of the Settlementespecially after the NFL agreed to remove the cap on the amount of money the NFL would be liable to pay to former players that were diagnosed with moderate dementia, full blown dementia, ALS, Parkinson's or Alzheimer's disease. 

After a "Fairness Hearing" held by Judge Brody on November 19, 2014, there were several other modifications that made the Settlement even better. But keep in mind, the NFL had to agree to those recommendations – which, to their credit, they did. But even with the changes to the Settlement, there were about 95 former players that were not satisfied with some of the terms, so they filed appeals.         

It's high noon and the final showdown is now upon us.  Over four years of litigation will come to a head on Thursday, November 19, 2015 - exactly one year since the fairness hearing - when the United States Court of Appeals will hear oral arguments on the appeals of former players who want to alter the NFL Concussion Settlement. 

The Appellate Court could chose to confirm Judge Brody's approval of the $1 billion settlement, in which case the appellant’s would have no other recourse - unless, of course, some of them decided to file an appeal with the United States Supreme Court. If that were to happen, it would probably delay the Settlement for another year.

Several prominent attorneys called for an end to the appeals, but unfortunately those calls were ignored. I have previously written about how some former players will never personally receive an award - only their family members will - because they will die waiting for the appeals process to run its course. In fact, several have already passed away since the appeals were filed.            

I don't think there's much chance that the appeals will succeed, but if the Court were to rule in favor of one or more of them, the settlement would then be sent back to Judge Brody’s district court, along with the Appelate Court's recommendations. Again, any changes to the Settlement would have to be agreed to by the NFL. But would the NFL agree to any additional changes to the Settlement? There’s no guarantee, especially on the issue of compensating players for the symptoms associated with CTE, such as confusion, impaired judgment, impulse control problems, suicidal thoughts, aggression, depression, headaches and anxiety. Compensating former players who supposedly have CTE - and deceased players who have autopsies showing they had CTE are the central arguements in the appeals, but unfortunately, the current science and research were not sufficient to support our case in court.        

I don’t know if you saw the CBS program 60 Minutes last night, but Robert Stern, Director of Clinical Research at the Boston University CTE Center, was on the show talking about the disease. He acknowledged that they still don't know why some players get CTE and others don't, and he reminded everyone that there is still no test to show that someone has CTE while they are still living - although he claimed that they would probably have one within five to ten years. Even if they develop a test, there are some people that have been diagnosed with CTE - post mortem - that never showed any signs or symptoms of CTE while they were alive. How do they explain that? More importantly, how do our lawyers explain that in a courtroom?  

It’s also interesting to note that on the BU CTE Center's website under FAQ’s, they pose the following question: If I have the symptoms of CTE, do I have the disease itself? Answer: Just because you have some or many of the symptoms of CTE does not necessarily mean that you have the disease itself. There are many possible causes of these types of symptoms. If you are having difficulties, you should speak with your primary care or specialist physician.  The BU CTE Center's own website destroys the argument for compensating players with the symptoms that are commonly associated with CTE, so how could we expect our lawyers to win this arguement in court? 

The NFL lawyers would have shot holes all over the CTE issue - and our lawyers knew it.  Giving in on the issue of CTE could have cost the NFL billions of dollars and before they were going to let that happen, I think they were prepared to shoot it out at the OK Corral by going back to court.

I should note that CTE will not be the first issue addressed by the court if litigation were renewed. The first order of business would be the issue of Preemption – one that has not gone very well for former players in some of the more recent cases.  Judge Brody never ruled on Preemption, but now there are several precedents that have been set that could be used by the NFL to bolster their case.  After Preemption, we would still have to contend with the Statute of Limitations, Assumption of Risk and several other hurddles.

Whatever happens on Thursday, I hope both sides will ultimately come to a quick and final resolution. According to the actuarial reportsalmost 6,000 retired players are expected to develop dementia or worse - and thus be eligible for compensation under this settlement. Many are already eligible and have been patiently waiting for the court battles to end.

Nellie Drew, a sports law expert and adjunct professor at the University of Buffalo Law School said it best. “Many of these families needed the money two years ago. As long as this is under appeal, the money is not available to them. It’s not just a question of setting themselves up for the future, it’s for medical coverage that they’re not currently getting at the levels that they need.”

I second that emotion. 

November 10

Rex Ryan Poll: Are coaches like him close to extinction?

The Tyrannosaurus Rex, or T-Rex was the most feared of all the dinosaurs. It was an opportunistic carnivore, acting as both a predator and a scavenger.

Maybe I’m stretching it, but Coach Rex Ryan could be considered a predator for the way he goes after other players and coaches - mostly through trash talk

Before you bite my head off for even suggesting there's a correlation, remember that he’s the one who said he wanted the Buffalo Bills to be a bully on the field. He’s also been very successful in scavenging for players that could be considered bullies, ie. Richie Incognito and IK Enemkpali. 

As you all know, IK Enemkpali broke the jaw of Jets QB Geno Smith while he was a member of that team. IK was released by the Jets and promptly picked up by T-Rex........excuse me, coach Rex. 

A sportswriter for the New York Dailey News suggested that Rex Ryan's latest decision to appoint IK Enemkpali as a team captain for Thursday night's game against the Jets has crossed the line of decency - and he’s probably right. But when has pro football – which is both a physical and mental battle – ever been “decent?”

If you want decency, go watch golf.

This is the NFL…..and as much as the writer of the aforementioned article would like to remind us that the NFL wants to change their image, deep down inside, the League and the owners love this stuff. It sells tickets and it puts people in front of their big screen tv’s - and the advertisers who pay the networks, who in turn pay the NFL billions of dollars to air the games. 

To say that Rex Ryan is somehow hurting the NFL’s efforts to address domestic violence and workplace harassment by having IK Enemkpali as the team captain, is stretching it. If a coach can use a little psychology 101 to get his team motivated - while at the same time putting a thorn in side of the other team - then what’s wrong with that?  Here's a sportswriter who tells everyone to lighten up and laugh at Rex Ryan's troll job.    

Do NFL coaches always have to be politically correct?  Not Rex. He will let you know exctly how he feels - just like he did to a fan after this game in Miami....... 

Listening to most of today's NFL head coaches is like listening to elevator music. They have nothing interesting to say and they never answer the question the way they would really like to answer it, but every once in a while a coach will let down their guard – and let loose like Dennis Green does in the following video.

Or how about this classic Jim Mora press conference.........

It’s refreshing to see a coach who isn’t afraid to say what he really thinks, although there are times when both coaches and players need to put up or shut upAs a former player, I liked it when our coaches played mind games with our opponents and when they let the fans know how they really felt about something.

Rex and other NFL coaches know that if you can get the other team to use their hearts more than their heads, you’ve already won half the battle. Players start making mistakes when they get caught up in their own emotions. The Bill’s defensive end, Jerry Hughes, is a prime example of a player letting his emotions rule his actions. Losing your composure not only hurts a team, it can hurt a player’s wallet. It can also affect a coaches wallet when they cross the line of decency.     

I think Buffalo Bills fans find Rex’s personality a lot like the people of our city.  We tell it like it is - we don’t back down – and we don’t take sh*t from anybody. Maybe that’s just my recessed Neanderthal genes speaking, but I hope that coaches like Rex Ryan don’t go the way of the T-Rex and become extinct. The NFL needs coaches like him.  Yes, he is self-promoting and he ruffles a few fethers, but right now he's entertaining us and he still has the Bills in a position to make the playoffs. Thursday night will tell us a lot about this coach and this team. If they win, Rex can say just about anything he wants to say, but if they lose, it won't really matter what he says, because winning is the only thing that can keep him from going the way of the Dodo bird and becoming extinct.    

(Update: The Bills and Rex Ryan won the game 22-17)

After the game, Nigel Bradham laughed when he heard Ryan compared getting let go by the Jets to getting dumped by a hot girl. "Well, hopefully he's got a hotter one now," he said, laughing. 


November 8

Bills beat the Dolphins to end the "streak"

In the video, a young Bryant Gumble narrates the highlights of our win over Miami to break a 20 game losing streak.  It's been 35 years since that game was played. How many of you remember that game? How many of you were at that game? 

During the 1970s, we did not beat the Miami Dolphins. We still hold the longest losing streak to a single opponent in NFL history. 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. 

Buffalo 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. For those who don't know, Tom was born without toes on his right foot. He wore a modified shoe with a flattened and enlarged toe surface for kicking field goals. 

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. 

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. 

The Bills beat Miami earlier this season. Lets beat them again today and start our own winning streak!


November 7

Playing Injured in the NFL

Y.A. Tittle is on his knees after a game, face bloodied. He was also suffering from broken ribs. .

I was fortunate to get the opportunity to play in the NFL, but like most players, my career ended as a result of the injuries I sustained.

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 Krause, or 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. It was Paul Krause's last season in the NFL. He's a Hall of Famer that played 15 years and has the record for the most interceptions in a career with 81! The announcers for this 1979 game said I had a great future in the NFL.  

When I picked off Terry Bradshaw in the last game of my rookie season the announcers said "This kids gonna be in the NFL a long time" They said the same thing in 1980 when I was leading the National Football League in interceptions with 5 picks in the first 4 games. 

As I soon found out, the NFL also stands for "Not For Long" and in the 5th game of my second 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. 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 no matter what they do or how well they are conditioned. 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. The show must go on...........and it does!

I have to admit that it bothers me when fans, announcers and writers say a player just can't seem to stay "healthy" - as if they had the flu or some virus that was keeping them out of the game.

Most players are much healthier than the general population because it's their 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, head, neck, back, knee, arm, shoulder, thigh, wrist, or an ankle injury.

Sammy Watkins has received a lot of criticism for supposedly being injury prone and not playing due to his ankle injury. To a certain degree I understand Sammy's frustration and why he has lashed out at some of the fans that think he  should just "tough it out" and get back in the lineup, but I hope it's not the reason he is determined to play this Sunday.

During my stint in the NFL, I didn’t see any players that wanted to sit out a game if they thought they were “healthy” – there’s that word again.  Apparently, Sammy feels he is ready to go, but is he really 100%? Probably not. That doesn’t seem to matter to some fans who will never understand just how devastating some injuries can be, especially if they are not allowed a reasonable time to heal and are continually reinjured. Back in my day, the players were routinely pressured to play injured not only by the fans, but by team doctors. A shot of Lidocaine or Toradal and we were ready to go! 

This week, 338 players were listed on the NFL's injury report as being Out, Doubtful, Questionable or Probable.

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.

Today's players have a better chance of extending their playing days because the surgical techniques and treatment protocols have significantly improved. They have benefitted from the trial and error of surgeries performed on former players over the past 80 years. We were essentially the guinea pigs for the NFL. 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 playing days.

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 tape station in the training room.            

November 5

Poll: Are Bills Fans really the “Drunkest” in the NFL?

We’re number 1! We’re Number 1!

It’s nice to join in on that chant when your team is the best in the NFL, but when it's for having the most inebriated fans in the's not so good.

According to VinePair - which provides information on drinking - Bills fans were ranked numero uno! They were followed by the Detroit Lions, Philadelphia Eagles, Cleveland Browns and Arizona Cardinals.

Before anyone gets all upset about this designation, I should note that it is not based on the most reliable scientific study. A company called BACtrack utilized smartphone breathalyzers to gauge a person’s BAC (blood alcohol content).  

According to their website, “the data for the BACtrack Consumption Report was collected anonymously from users of the BACtrack app, which syncs with BACtrack Mobile and BACtrack Vio smartphone breathalyzers. Regular season data represents unique BAC tests collected anonymously on Sundays, 6 AM to Mondays, 5:59 AM from Sunday, September 13, 2015 through Sunday, October 25, 2015. Pre-season data represents unique BAC tests collected anonymously on Sundays, 6 AM to Mondays, 5:59 AM from May 1, 2015 to September 6, 2015. Data used in the report was collected from U.S. users with data storage activated, location services turned on, and does not represent data from all users.”

There are a lot of fans that like to have a few drinks before, during and after a football game. It’s all part of the tailgate experience, but I always wonder why some fans get so intoxicated they can’t even enjoy the game. You know the ones I’m talking about. Every game you can see them being escorted to the exit by security… drunk they can’t even walk by themselves. If they don’t get thrown out, they usually make the game experience intolerable for the fans that are sitting anywhere in their vicinity. I have to admit that I love it when the fans start chanting “asshole” when a few security gaurds finally drag them out of the stands – usually for starting a fight or throwing beer on someone.

As a former player, I used to hate playing at Shea Stadium because we had to enter the field by coming out of the visiting team’s baseball dugout. We were warned by our trainers and coaches to keep our helmets on at all times because it wasn’t unusual to get pelted by a few beer bottles or beer cups. That happened to me when we had a wild-card playoff game against the Jets back in 1981.

Buffalo fans were guilty of the same thing in 1995 when Miami Dolphins linebacker Brian Cox was heading into the tunnel after being ejected from a game. It didn't help that he gave Buffalo fans the finger before the game.  I'm not saying he deserved the yellow shower of beer and garbage that was thrown on him, I'm just saying he added some fuel to the fire of the fans that were in the endzone and probably already had one too many beers.   

That leads me to a question that I have never been able to answer. Why is it that the endzones of most NFL stadiums have the drunkest fans? If I didn’t know better I’d swear that they were giving fans a breathalyzer before they buy their season ticket and anyone with a .08% BAC automatically gets seats in the endzone.

I’ve been to other stadiums in the NFL and I’ve seen the same thing happening, so it’s no wonder that NFL stadiums stopped serving beer at halftime. That doesn’t stop some fans from smuggling a fifth of liquor into the game. No matter what the NFL does to reduce alcohol consumption during the game, they can’t really control what fans do before the game (although they are trying) and just as long as a fan can still walk straight, they can usually get into the game. 

I don’t really care if someone decides to get blitzed before the game starts - just as long as they don’t ruin the game for everyone else. There are “good” drunks and there are “bad” drunks. Some people know how to control themselves even when they can’t see two feet in front them, but why are they paying $50 for a ticket, $20 to park, $10 for a hot dog and fries and $30 for a few beers if they’re not sober enough to know what’s happening down on the field and really enjoy the game? That seems like a lot of money to spend just to get out of the house and get sh**faced. That’s ok with me just as long as they aren’t behaving badly and driving after the game is over.

You can see literally hundreds of youtube videos of people who are totally blasted at NFL games and sadly to say, there are quite a few that are posted showing Bills fans under the influence. In a way it's kind of like a train wreck. Look at all the people that are watching the guy in this video as he runs head first into a bus after drinking and spinning around. It's kind of funny.........and kind of sad at the same time. 

Unfortunately, alcohol consumption doesn’t usually lead to politeness and orderly conduct. It would be interesting to see where Buffalo Bills fans rate when it comes to DWI’s, disorderly conduct and other crimes and misdemeanors on game day compared to NFL fans in other cities.

I'd really be interested to know what other Buffalo Bills fans feel about this issue. 


November 2

When should you take your NFL Pension and Legacy Benefit?

When planning for retirement, one of the most important questions you can ask is “How is my Pension and Legacy Benefit affected if I take it early, or if I defer it until after age 55?”

First, it is essential to know that you can only take the Legacy Benefit if you are currently receiving your regular Pension - known as the Bert Bell/Pete Rozelle NFL Retirement Plan.

Whether you are taking your Pension now or later, all vested players need to have good information in order to make good decisions.

When you decide to take your Legacy Benefit, it will be actuarially adjusted using the same “Retirement Factor” that the regular Pension Plan uses in determining what your annual payout will be. Keep in mind that the benefit payments are further adjusted depending on which “election” you decide to take. For example: Life Only Pension, Joint and Survivor Annuity etc. The total amount might also be adjusted if you took the “Early Payment Benefit.”

If you are not taking your Pension and Legacy benefit at this time, but would like to get a “projection” of what your Pension and Legacy benefit payment would be if you took it at a particular time in the future, you should contact the Plan Office at 1-800-638-3186.

The NFL retirement plan defines normal retirement age as 55 years old, but some players begin drawing their pensions early. Retired players who left the League on, or after March 1, 1977 and have at least one credited season before 1993 may elect to receive benefits as of their 45th birthday. Those players can also apply for and receive an “Early Payment Benefit” – a 25% Lump sum distribution from their pension.

Players who begin drawing their NFL pension and their Legacy benefit before age 55 receive a reduced benefit because benefits are paid over a longer period and begin up to 10 years earlier. This is referred to as “early retirement”. For example, a player who begins drawing his pension benefits at age 45 would only receive 45.2% of the monthly benefit that he would receive if he waited to draw his NFL pension at age 55.

If a player waits until later than his 55th birthday to begin drawing his NFL pension, his monthly benefit will increase. This is known as “deferred retirement”.

Here are the basics of how the “regular” NFL monthly pension benefit is calculated:

(Sum of benefit credits) x (Early or deferred Retirement Factor) = Monthly pension benefit

Find the sum of your benefit credits using the table below:

Credited Season

Benefit Credit

Before 1982


1982 – 1992


1993 – 1994


1995 – 1996 




1998 – 2011 


2012 – 2014 


2015 – 2017 


2018 – 2020 


It is important to note that on September 1, 2014, the NFLPA increased pensions for 1,722 former players with credited seasons from 1993 to 1996. You can see the specifics of that increase at the NFLPA website here.  

If you played from 1982 to 1985 the sum of your “regular” pension benefit credits would be calculated as follows:

$250 + $255 + $255 + $255 = $1,015


Now, here are the basics of how the Legacy Benefit is calculated:

The Legacy Benefit consists of two parts: a $600 floor and an increase in Benefit Credits.

$600 Floor: A player who is receiving a regular retirement benefit as of August 1, 2011 will have his benefit increased to $600 if it is less, regardless of when it began or the form that was selected.

The $600 floor for a player who was not receiving a retirement benefit as of August 1, 2011 will be adjusted if the player receives an Early Payment Benefit after August 1, 2011, and/or elects a Social Security form of benefit.

Legacy Credits Benefit: A player vested prior to 1993 will receive new Legacy Credits as follows:

$124 per Credited Season before 1975

$108 per Credited Season from 1975 through 1992

A player may elect to receive the Legacy Credit benefit increase at any time that he is receiving or elects to receive his regular retirement benefit.

If the Legacy Credit benefit begins at a later date, the benefit will be actuarially increased from the later of August 1, 2011 and age 55 to the date of payment.

The Legacy Credit benefit payment will be reduced if the player is younger than age 55 when the benefit begins.

The $600 floor and the increase – due to the Legacy Credits – are determined as if there are no Qualified Domestic Relations Orders or liens affecting the player’s benefits. The total increase is then allocated according to the terms of the order or lien, if any.

Find your early or deferred “Retirement Factor” using the following table:

Age -Taking Retirement

Retirement Factor











































Multiply the sum of your benefit credits by your early or deferred retirement factor.

Using the “Retirement Factor” - here are is an example of how much the regular monthly Pension benefit can vary depending on when you decide to take your pension. If you played from 1982 to 1985 and begin taking your pension at:

Age 45: $1,015 x 0.452 = $458.78 per month

Age 55: $1,015 x 1.000 = $1,015 per month

Age 60: $1,015 x 1.573 = $1,596.60 per month

Age 65: $1,015 x 2.619 = $2,658.29 per month

Using the “Retirement Factor” - here is an example of how much the Legacy benefit can vary depending on when you decide to take that benefit. If you played from 1982 to 1985 and begin drawing your pension at:

Age 45: $432 x 0.452 = $195.64 per month

Age 55: $432 x 1.000 = $432.00 per month

Age 60: $432 x 1.573 = $679.36 per month

Age 65: $432 x 2.619 = $1,131.40 per month

If you are currently older than age 55, the deferred retirement factor for the Legacy Credit increase cannot be calculated from the above table because the increase is calculated based on your age as of August 1, 2011, not from age 55.

Under this example, a player taking the Pension and Legacy Benefit at age 55 would receive a total monthly pension of $1,447.00, whereas a player taking the Pension and Legacy Benefit at age 65 would receive a total monthly pension of $3,789.69.

The monthly benefit amounts listed above are for a “Life only pension”, meaning that an NFL player will receive his monthly benefit until he dies. There are other elections that you can take for both the Pension and the Legacy Benefit. Those options will be provided to you when you notify the Retirement Board that you would like to begin taking your pension.

Many players with families elect to receive a form of NFL pension that has a survivor benefit. If a player elects to receive a pension with a survivor benefit then the amount of the monthly benefit will be reduced. If the player dies before his beneficiary, the beneficiary will continue to receive a benefit from the Bert Bell/Pete Rozelle NFL Player Retirement Plan for a certain period of time.

The information provided in this article is my best understanding and interpretation of what I have been told and what I have researched. It should not be considered official and that is why I urge all vested players to contact the Retirement Board for the exact amount of your benefits with respect to the Pension Plan and Legacy Fund.

Only you can decide what is best for you and your family when it comes to the question of “When should I take my Pension and Legacy Benefits?” but if you can wait until age 55, or defer your retirement benefits to age 65 you will see a significant increase over the “early retirement” payments.

Please feel free to post a comment or ask a question and I will do my best to get an answer for you as soon as possible.

October 29

Sammy Watkins criticizes fans as "losers"

Is Sammy Watkin's jersey next for the fire?

The last time I posted an article about Sammy Watkins, I was criticized by a few Bills fans for taking his comments out of context - which I didn't. Some fans said he had every right to speak out against the Bills coaches and QB’s and they defended his right to use the media to press his case for getting more balls thrown his way.

I’m a firm believer in the freedom of speech, but knowing when to talk and when to hold your tongue are sometimes more important than what you say and who you are saying it to.

Well, it looks like Sammy has spoken again, and this time he has taken aim at the fans that have criticized him for being injured and not available to play.

According to ESPN staff writer Mike Rodak, he posted the following statement on Instagram - and then deleted it when the s**t started to hit the fan:

"I'm not first or last person that's gone be injured difference from me and you guys y'all mad and I'm not get a life and goto work stop worrying about my job because I'm good on this end and forever will be losers most of you just wish to be in this position so continue working y'all little jobs for the rest of y'all lives since everyone once a response here go one have a blessed day."

First of all, Sammy needs to take a course in writing, secondly - and more importantly - he needs a mentor - a veteran teammate that will take him under his wing and teach him the first lesson of being a professional athlete: Remember who pays your salary!

You only become a pro when someone is willing to pay you for your services. Some people think it’s the team owner paying the athlete. Technically, that is true, but the real financiers of the game are the fans. They are the ones forking out their hard earned cash – money they have made in their “little jobs” as Sammy puts it. 

Ultimately, the fans are the true source of all the money that comes into the NFL.  Advertisers wouldn’t be paying millions of dollars to the networks and cable TV companies if their marketing didn’t work on the fans that are watching the games. The revenue is also generated by fans buying tickets and shelling out $150 a pop for a Sammy Watkins authentic NFL jersey. 

After his unfortunate comments, Sammy will probably see his jersey being burned in effigy. They did it to Collin Kaepernick and he was only critical of one fan on twitter!  

I’m not sure who can talk sense into Sammy right now, but he really needs to understand who butters his bread……..and who can turn it to toast. The pen is mightier than the sword, and right now there is a small rebellion taking place against Sammy. It's a war of words that's becoming a big distraction - one that the Bills don’t need right now.

Even though Sammy was writing about certain fans that think he should be playing despite his injuries, he says something that all fans may find rather offensive "most of you just wish to be in this position so continue working y'all little jobs for the rest of y'all lives".  As I said in a previous article, "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 fans in Buffalo have endured a lot of national criticism about our weather and our mediocre football team - a team that will probably be extending its record streak of no-shows for the playoffs - so the last thing they want to hear is some multi-millionaire football player demeaning their jobs and insinuating that they are all a bunch of wanna-be pro football players. 

One of the first things that a worker in the customer service industry learns is the slogan "The customer is always right."  We all know the slogan is not true, because we have all seen horrible customers in our lifetimes - and some of them deserve to be flogged in the public square for their rude and insulting behavior. BUT, if the restaurant wants that customer to come back in the future, they better treat them like they are always right. The fans - the customers of the NFL - have earned the right to criticize players, because they have paid for that right - whether they are right or wrong.

If he hasn’t already done it, Sammy would be wise to issue a public apology………faster than he can run a go route.

Update: Sammy ran the fastest "backpedal" time in the history of the NFL and apologized for his comments here.

October 24

The Bills need more than luck in London

I'm starting today's blog with the lyrics to an old jazz standard “Foggy Day in London Town” with just two small edits – which I have underlined.

A foggy day in London Town....had me low and had me down. I viewed the morning with alarm...The Buffalo Bills had lost their charm. How long, I wondered, could this thing last? But the age of miracles hadn't passed, for suddenly, I saw them there, and through foggy London Town the sun was shining everywhere.

A lot of fans will be viewing this upcoming Sunday morning game in London with some alarm and maybe even a sense of impending doom. With all the injuries they have incurred, the Bills players are like the walking dead, or maybe they’re just dead men walking - a euphemism for anyone who is facing an impending and unavoidable loss.

No matter what you call them, they are banged up pretty good and have definitely lost their "charm." All the boasting and bragging have now turned into second guessing and finger pointing.

The lyrics in the song ask the question: How long, you wonder, could this thing last?  The answer to that question can only be determined at Wembley Stadium this Sunday. Good coaches and good players find a way to win, even when the chips - called french fries in London - are down.     

So how do they get their swagger back?  

Eating a box of lucky charms won’t get it done, although it has worked pretty good for Cam Newton

Catching a Leprechaun, who will show them the way to their pot of gold (the playoffs) at the end of the rainbow, won’t cut it either.

How about four leaf clovers plucked from the Royal Garden at Buckingham Palace and tucked into a horseshoe - then tucked into their pants? 

Or maybe they could borrow some of the "Netsuke" from the British Museum collection which includes around 3,300 of these good luck charms - some carved in the form of the mythical beast the Kirin, which had a human face and beard, two horns, a domed lump on its forehead and cloven hooves. That sounds a lot like a Buffalo to me - but it still won't help unless they can make it jump off their helmets and do some blocking.   

As a former player for the Buffalo Bills, I never believed that luck alone would be the main factor in a game and I never wore a Netsuke or any other type of good luck charm. I had routines and things that you might call "rituals" that I went through before the start of every game - as most players do.  

In my case, I had to have everything on my uniform just right. Socks at a certain height; Wrist bands with the Bills logo up; Belt at the same numbered hole; Chin strap perfectly centered. My uniform was "fung shui" all the way. But, as Steve Wonder would say, "When you believe in things that you don't understand, then you suffer, Superstition ain't the way" so my pre-game routine didn't end with just suiting up. In my mind, I would go over everything I had practiced that week, so that when it came time for the game, I wouldn't have to think as much and therefore I could react quicker and rely on my instincts  -  which are "an innate, typically fixed pattern of behavior in response to certain stimuli" as Webster's Dictionary defines it.  I know that sounds very Darwinian - but trust me, I do believe in a higher power - one that gives us free will and allows us to create our own destiny.  And so I would say a prayer before I hit the field - asking for a good personal performance and for the health and safety of me and my teammates. I had some good days..... and some not so good days in the performance category, but as far as the health and safety part of my prayers - that didn't seem to get answered on too many occassions.    

I don't really know if any of my prayers were actualy answered and I don't believe that God is performing any miracles to determine the outcomes of games - unless you want to count the 1981 Hail Mary that was caught by Roland Hooks to beat the New England Patriots (Just kidding of course). Here's a link to that unbelievable - and very lucky - victory.  Go to the 1 hr, 10 minute and 20 second point of the video and you will see that God Loves the Bills and hates the Patriots. (Again, just kidding)       

The Foggy Day song tells us that the age of miracles hasn’t passed, but if the Bills players and coaches can’t find a way to get out of London with a win, they’re going to need something miraculous to happen in order to make the playoffs this year.

There's only one way the Bills can make that happen....... and I’m sorry to say that Jesus will not intervene on their behalf. So if they do win, I hope the players don’t thank God for the victory, but instead thank their teammates, their coaches and that they remembered their six P’s -  Perfect Practice Prevents Piss Poor Performance.

That’s right. If the Bills players and coaches want to walk away with a W, it won’t be because their prayers were answered, or they wore a lucky charm, or performed a superstitious ritual, or anything else - other than straight up hard work, mental preparation and a "never say die" type of attitude and determination to win the game. 

Well, that's my tuppence (two cents in Britain) and you can take that to the Bank - or you can use it to feed the birds!  

btw: Here’s my solo guitar rendition of “A Foggy Day in London Town.”   Like the song, I hope it brings a ray of sunshine "through the fog" to everyone who hears it.  Go Bills!  

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