Everett’s Injury Is A Perfect Opportunity For Upshaw To Show Detractors That He Cares

By Gregory Moore
Updated: September 10, 2007

SAN ANTONIO — If you watched the game between the Denver Broncos and the Buffalo Bills, you witnessed probably one of the worst things that could happen in the sport of football; a player becoming seriously injured. Let me define the word serious for a moment. Injuries happen in the game all the time. Dislocated elbows, knees, ankles or sprains happen all the time. Torn meniscus tendons, broken legs and arms are serious injuries that can sideline a player for a long stretch and again, those are “normal” injuries in the game.

What is beyond that scope however are injuries that become career ending and those happen in such rare air that we as fans seem to forget that they can happen. Thus is the unfortunate circumstance that Bills’ reserve tight end Kevin Everett finds himself in at Millard Filmore Hospital a few days after his team lost to the Broncos on a last second field goal by Jason Elam. I seriously doubt if Everett wanted to know the outcome of the game because right now, this young man is fighting for his very existence of maybe having just a normal life, as we know it for the rest of us non-players.

Everett’s injury re-opens the door on whether the NFLPA is actively doing enough to make sure those current/former players whose careers are cut short due to a career ending injury. As many know, I had written a very in depth article about former NFL players who were very dissatisfied with their pension plan and many of these former players have some serious ailments that ended their careers.

Many of these athletes are in the Hall of Fame and/or are well known to many of us. This injury also brings into discussion whether players who may have sustained such an injury should be coming back to play. It’s a touchy topic in the sports world but it is definitely something that needs to be discussed out in the open.

The NFLPA has consistently said that they have the best pension plan on the planet in regards to taking care of former players and that is a hotly debated issue. Yet the pension plan isn’t necessarily up on the floor of discussion here. What is up for discussion is whether the NFLPA is going to treat Everett in a just manner? What is a “just” manner? In my opinion, a just manner means that his benefits as a paid member of the NFLPA will have 100% coverage as far as medical benefits and other benefits that may befall this young man.

A just manner means that under the Collective Bargaining Agreement, any monies owed to Everett as far as salary will not only continue to be paid but if there are support services that can help his family, they should be made readily available to him and his family. In other words the union needs to embrace Everett’s injury as something that needs to be handled in a judicious and expedient manner while at the same time showing the compassion necessary to help a fallen member and his family get back on their street.

I bring this up because Everett’s injury reminds me of what happened to former Detroit Lions player, Reggie Brown. On December 21, 1997, Brown was making a play when he became injured. When you go to the Detroit Lions website and put Brown’s name in, you come across an article entitled “Heart of a Lion”. In that article several of Brown’s teammates describe what they were feeling when the second year linebacker got injured.

“I heard him mutter a couple of words,” defensive end Tracy Scroggins said. “He said he was hurt. He needed help. We got the trainers out there. He didn’t move. It turned into something more than just a ding. It was serious.”

“All I know, I turned around and he was not moving,” defensive end Robert Porcher said. “He was not moving at all. He wasn’t saying anything.”

According to Dr. Terry Lock, what was even scarier was the fact that Brown wasn’t breathing.

“We wondered if he had swallowed his mouthpiece,” Lock said. “Reggie doesn’t use a mouthpiece. He was kind of struggling to attempt to breathe but wasn’t getting any air. His lips were turning blue.”

Lock administered mouth-to-mouth and an emergency IV was inserted just in case Brown experienced heart failure. The doctors then cut Brown’s jersey open and placed an ambu-bag, a device used to help ventilate patients with breathing difficulties, on his face.

Now that was an incident that will be 10 years in the making this December but Brown’s injury is all too real in today’s game. If you go back to injuries by Dennis Byrd of the New York Jets, of when Michael Irvin’s head bounced off the bad turf at then Veterans Stadium in Philadelphia and most recently of when Kansas City Chiefs’ running back Priest Holmes was injured in a head/spinal injury.

Holmes hasn’t played football in two years and is currently on the Physically Unable to Perform list with the Chiefs and many believe that the talented back from Marshall High School might want to call it quits and just be happy he still has his health. But Everett, the concern is more about getting him proper medical attention and by ensuring that the union and/or league takes care of him during this incident and afterwards.

While the concern is there, the question has to be asked is will the league and the union step up in the huddle and do so? That is where many, including myself, become wary of the union. For guys like Everett and Holmes, I wonder if the league and union will step up and do the right thing because every day I get emails from various former NFL players who have been questioning the union on whether they truly care about them. Every time former players push the issue on increasing benefits for them, Gene Upshaw says he doesn’t represent them and that they are doing what they have to do for the current players.

Well, this week that is quite a poignant statement by Upshaw and his staff because this time it is not a former player like a Eugene “Mercury” Morris who is suffering from migraine headaches because of the broken neck he suffered during his playing days nor is it the friends and family members of former Green Bay Packer Willie Wood, who is so desolate that many wonder how he is going to live in the nursing home that he is currently in or whether his medical conditions will overtake him.

The cry this time is coming for a current player who deserves to have the best medical care that his dues have paid for and for a union to step in and be ready to assist him based upon what they have constantly said is “the best pension plans” in professional sports.

A while back, while just surfing through various news articles about the pension plan and to see what else has been made as far as progress with it, I came across an article in which it appears that Upshaw has threatened a former NFL player and current Hall of Fame member.

In a June 5th article that appeared in the Charlotte Observer and on ESPN.com, Upshaw is quoted as saying “A guy like (Joe) DeLamielleure says the things he said about me, you think I’m going to invite him to dinner? No. I’m going to break his damn neck.”

Now I’ve talked to Big Joe over the past couple of years or so and he isn’t the type of guy to back down from a good fight but I’m also quite certain that he has realized a long time ago that a pissing contest with Upshaw doesn’t help the cause that he, Ron Mix and so many others are fighting.

But what is in question is whether Upshaw is ready to fight for Everett as hard as he was willing to take on a fellow Hall of Famer and be willing to show the lack of professionalism that so many of his critics say that he possesses when he speaks to them.

If Upshaw wants to really but an olive branch out to DeLamielleure and others who are fighting for guys like Byrd, Brown, Wood and so many others, then Upshaw and the union needs to take care of Kevin Everett this week. Does the union need to put on a dog and pony show with the media and grandstand at how well they will take care of Everett by the weekend?

That isn’t necessary and if they do, then all it will show is that the union is about a dog and pony show and publicity in trying to right a soiled image that was already sullied by previous non-actions. What the union needs to do is to continually educate the current players on the dangers of all types of injuries but more importantly the union needs to take care of players like Everett who get injured on the job with current care now and post career benefits later.

Everett is a two-year player and he most likely doesn’t fall into the retirement tier that union has set up for its members for accruement for retirement. So that is why the actions of the union in the next few months are critical. If Upshaw wants guys like Big Joe and others off of his back, then the union needs to make sure that this young man from Port Arthur, Texas will have a quality of life that he can say was only accentuated by his NFL family.

Going to the hospital for a pep talk and photo opportunity isn’t going to cut it; real concern for a member of the union is the only way Upshaw can show that he cares about all of the players, both current and former. If Upshaw doesn’t think that is an important part of his job description, then Everett will be among the many other detractors of the union and Upshaw doesn’t want that to happen.

Not with the whole sports world watching the prognosis of this young man.