The NFL Engagement Zone: Resources for Former NFL Players

Dear NFL Alumni:

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

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

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

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

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

Your alumni brother,

Jeff Nixon            



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

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

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

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

Schlereth made this passionate plea to Commissioner Roger Goodell:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

What do you think?




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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I don’t even want to go there.               

After further review…..the NFL’s call has been reversed

The fans and the public did not like the call.

They booed and booed, but nothing was going to happen until the “Sponsors” threw the red flag.

It’s a shame that it takes the loss of revenue to get the attention of the NFL and team owners - and to get them to do the right thing. But in the case of Ray Rice and Adrian Peterson, the final decisions that were made were classic examples of how money talks.

In their decision to put Adrian Peterson on the Exempt list, Minnesota Vikings owners Zygi and Mark Wilf said "While we were trying to make a balanced decision yesterday, after further reflection we have concluded that this resolution is best for the Vikings and for Adrian."

It’s no coincidence that their stunning reversal comes after the Radisson hotel chain suspended its sponsorship with the Vikings. Nike stores pulled Peterson's jerseys from its shelves and Castrol Motor Oil, Special Olympics Minnesota and Mylan Inc. all severed ties with Peterson.

Anheuser-Busch issued a strongly worded statement saying they were disappointed in the way the NFL was dealing with the Baltimore Ravens running back Ray Rice's assault of his girl friend (now wife) and Peterson's arrest for child abuse.

Here’s a football analogy for what is currently happening to the NFL: Just like O.J. Simpson was the “Juice” and his offensive line was the “Electric Company” – The NFL is the juice and their sponsors are the electric company. If you screw up, the electric company will turn off your power - and without that, you are living in a cold, dark place. The NFL owners like where they are living right now and they don’t want to give up their lifestyles just yet.

So what really made the NFL and team owners have a change of heart?

"After giving the situation additional thought, we have decided this is the appropriate course of action for the organization and for Adrian," the Wilfs said. "We are always focused on trying to make the right decision as an organization.”

I think their sponsors made them put some corrective lenses in their glasses to help them focus. 

It’s sad to think that money is the motivator behind almost everything the NFL does. Their reversal of decisions on player punishments has more to do with their image and their bottom line, than it has to do with making the right decisions.

The NFL’s sponsors used their money as leverage - and it was the right thing to do.

NFL players have a name for the person that comes to take away your money and end your pro football career. He’s called the “Turk” and he wields a mighty sharp axe. He has only one purpose – and it’s not to give you a clean shave. When he comes to your room at 6:00 am and says that the head coach wants to see you and then tells you to bring your playbook - the writing is on the wall. 

The NFL saw the writing and did not like what they read.

Now they’re backpedaling faster than Richard Sherman in their attempt to hold off the Turk.

   

 

Judges dismiss the "seven" that want to speak for all former NFL players

A couple weeks ago, I wrote an article entitled "NFL Concussion Settlement: 7 former NFL players that want to speak for all of us."

Those seven players - Sean Morey, Alan Faneca, Ben Hamilton, Robert Royal, Rock Cartwright, Jeff Rohrer, and Sean Considine - had their day in court this past Wednesday and three judges from the Third Circuit Court of Appeals quickly dismissed their request to intervene in the Settlement process. The Judges said that Judge Anita Brody had not yet given final approval to the deal and that objectors still had time to plead their case at a fairness hearing scheduled for Nov. 19, 2014.

Steven Molo, the attorney for the seven players, told the judges that the settlement doesn’t compensate enough players and that they need to remedy this defect because appealing the settlement after it is made final months from now will lead to even further delays in getting money to players in need.

Mr. Molo thinks Judge Brody will approve the Settlement………and I do too. Why? Because she’s done everything in her power to make sure the Settlement is fair to former players.

That doesn't seem to matter to Mr. Molo and the seven players he represents. They seem to be hell bent on filing an appeal and delaying benefits and compensation to the guys that need it most. But, like I said in my article, where were these guys and their lawyer when other former players were filing lawsuits against the NFL? 

None of the seven filed a lawsuit against the NFL.

In fact, over 15,000 former players did not file, but now Mr. Molo and the seven would like all former players to be compensated for their depression, anger issues, sleep disorders, headaches and other “symptoms” of CTE - symptoms that have been associated with numerous other disorders and diseases (not to mention hereditary and environmental factors). Our attorney’s would have had serious problems proving these symptoms were from CTE (since it can’t be diagnosed in living persons) and that the symptoms were solely caused by the playing in the NFL.

Sure, we would all like to get money from the Settlement right now, but like a lot of former players that took the time and effort to file lawsuits, I have a hard time listening to guys that didn't go on the record from the start – and now want to tell the rest of us it’s a bad deal.

If Mr. Molo and the seven players he represents don’t like the Settlement, then they have a perfect remedy………..“OPT OUT”…… and go back to court against the NFL.

It’s time for them to stop their selfish and misguided appeals and attempts to delay and deny former players the compensation they need now - and for those that will need it in the future.

Mr. Molo said “…appealing the settlement after it is made final months from now will lead to even further delays in getting money to players in need.”  Sounds like a threat to me. But he’s right. It will delay getting money to players in need. Unfortunately, he will be the one who creates that delay if he, or any other lawyers and players appeal the Settlement after it receives final approval.

In my opinion, he's just looking to make money from appealing the Settlement and he doesn't really care about the players in need. Why?  Because he doesn't represent any of the former players that filed lawsuits.

As it stands right now, Mr. Molo will get nothing from the Settlement because he didn't retain any former players, or file any lawsuits on their behalf.

The only way Mr. Molo can make any money is by filing appeals on behalf of former players, or as I recommended, by having his seven clients opt out of the Settlement.

If they opt out, they reserve the right to sue the NFL.  Mr. Molo can then file lawsuits on their behalf and some day in the distant future - if they are lucky enough to win a case against the NFL and get compensated - he can collect his fee.

Former players that are duped into filing an appeal of this settlement will be guilty of delaying and denying the benefits and compensation to the guys that need it now - not after their dead. History will not smile favorably on the players that run this “appeals” route.

I took the offense in helping thousands of former players file lawsuits against the NFL. Now I’m taking the defense in helping thousands of former players get the benefits they deserve under this Settlement over the next 65 years.

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

Check out what some of your teammates have already said.