The NFL And Disabled Players

By Gary Norris Gray
Updated: February 7, 2009

CALIFORNIA — Kevin Everett of the Buffalo Bills is a man of true courage and strength. Everett was paralyzed after a helmet to helmet hit on a second half kickoff against the Denver Broncos in the first game of the 2007 season.

It is truly a miracle story, because he is now walking without assistance.

The NFL paid all of his medical and rehabilitation bills. This is one case in a thousand. The National Football League Players Association (NFLPA) offers limited medical coverage after you retire.

Retired players are basically on their own. Yes, interestingly most of the football injuries resurface after the fifth year of retirement. Sadly, NFL refuses to pay medical bills after the first four years of eligibility.

The conflict between NFL, NFLPA, and retired Disabled players is a complete disgrace. Basically the league is saying, thank you for playing the game, now go away, we don’t want to see you.

This same philosophy applies to other Americans who are disabled.

BE SEEN AND NOT BE HEARD.

These players played the game 10-14 years of their productive lives putting their bodies on the line. The majority of these disabled players are offensive and defensive linemen.

The NFLPA helped these players on a very small scale when they went to the hospital with disabling back injuries, neck injuries, knee injuries, broken bones, and shattered elbows.

Many of these players are now homeless, need wheelchairs, and have lost their families, while some need more intensive medical care as they grow older. The NFL has turned its back on their Sunday warriors and the men who have made this game famous all over the world.

The NFL Assistance Fund Program is not keeping up with the medical claims. The retired players have to pay their own medical bills from their small retirement checks.

Many of these ex players are on the verge of bankruptcy, homelessness, and death. In the late 60′s and early 70′s the NFL owners tried an experiment that went terribly wrong.

Unfortunately, the silent experiment was at the expense of football player’s knees and backs.

The owners wanted the game played on the pristine Astroturf. This surface could be used for multiple venues and could be changed quickly. Unlike natural grass this surface was hard as a rock. The owners made the profits while the players suffered pain in silence.

Many of us can recall the new Astro-turf football fields springing up all over America in Cincinnati, Pittsburgh, Philadelphia, Houston, Buffalo, Seattle, St. Louis, Kansas City, Chicago, Detroit, Minnesota., New Orleans, and New Jersey in the 60′s, 70′s, and 80′s

Well 30 years later it has come back to bite the players. The players who played on these cement fields are now suffering. A league wide player survey reveled that the Philadelphia Eagles had the hardest field in the league. Other teams hated to play in Veterans Stadium because of this hard rock surface.

Remember Conrad Dobler who played Center for the St. Louis Cardinals? He can barely walk now because of four knee replacements. He played on the second hardest field in the NFL history, old Busch Stadium in St. Louis.

He was considered one of the meanest players in NFL history. Now he just barely makes it through each day with tremendous leg pain.

Remember Earl Campbell? yes, the same Earl Cambell who ran over linebackers with each carry.

He is now using a walker and canes to get around his house. He is only 58 years old. Do you recall Campbell playing in the Houston Astrodome the first field with this fake grass? The Oilers fans would sing “Love Ya’ Blue”.

So where is the love now?

Remember Bo Jackson who played for the L.A. Raiders?

He claimed that the games in Cincinnati and Seattle took its toll on his body. He pointed out that he got injured playing in the Bengals home field. Bo played three more years of baseball in Kansas City, Chicago, and Anaheim before he was forced to retired due to his second hip replacement.

Remember Daryl “Moose” Johnston, who played for the Dallas Cowboys?

He suffered a broken neck that forced him out of football in 1999. He is one of the current former football players who are trying to receive redress from the NFL, NFLPA, and Assistance Fund.

The lines of disabled players are endless and the claims are escalating each passing season. The NFLPA has been dragging its collective feet on this issue for many years.

These ex-players paid their union dues, and even played injured in many games, yet when they need medical attention due to football injuries the NFL has turned its collective backs on them.

The disabled players have since gone to court to state their cases. BASN writers will keep you informed about the progress of these lawsuits.