(AP) Mixed emotions from NFL players on settlement
By BARRY WILNER
AP Pro Football Writer
The hundreds of millions of dollars the NFL is ready to pay former players sounds great, until you stretch it out over 20 years and divide it among thousands of people. (photo is of former Detroit Lions quarterback Eric Hipple.)
Which is why some former players and others think the league is getting off cheap in its tentative settlement with victims of concussion-related brain injuries.
The deal announced Thursday to settle 4,500 or so claims is awaiting approval by a federal judge in Philadelphia.
Former players union president and Pro Bowl center Kevin Mawae complained that the NFL does not have to admit culpability.
Others former players didn’t seem as concerned about the amount of money, preferring to focus on the timing of the settlement. They said that getting medical coverage now for their peers _ or themselves _ who suffer from a variety of brain ailments and other health problems is essential.
The lawsuits accused the NFL of concealing the long-term dangers of concussions while glorifying spectacular hits on the field.
The settlement calls for payouts of up to $5 million for players suffering from Alzheimer’s disease; up to $4 million for those who died of brain injuries known as chronic traumatic encephalopathy, or CTE; and up to $3 million for players suffering from dementia. The NFL will also pay for medical exams and devote $10 million toward medical research.
The payments will hardly be a burden to the 32 NFL teams. The league generates close to $10 billion a year in revenue, and that is certain to rise when new TV contracts are negotiated in the near future.
Andrew Zimbalist, a sports economist at Smith College in Northampton, Mass., estimated the settlement will cost the NFL $45 million a year, or 0.4 percent of current revenue.
He added: “It is a positive settlement for the former players, even though it could have been higher.”
Or as Hall of Fame linebacker Harry Carson put it, the NFL “has the resources to sort of stretch things out for years and years and years. The players don’t have years and years and years.”
It’s also a positive public relations move for the NFL just a week before the season kicks off. The last thing the league wanted was for concussions to remain a front-page story while games were being played.
Commissioner Roger Goodell can now point to the settlement and the league’s player-safety initiatives as proof that pro football is dealing forcefully with the issue.
But some former players wonder if their future will be any brighter as they try to deal with brain disease.
Boyd said he foresees a “bureaucratic nightmare of red tape” in attempts to get approved for coverage and then receive treatment. He said he has been diagnosed with early-onset dementia and has signs of Alzheimer’s disease.