"I have always felt great concern and frustration regarding the condition of some of the retired players who helped build the league," Kramer states on his web site, jerrykramer.com. "The physical and economic hardships they are forced to live with due to the lack of adequate pension and disability compensation is reprehensible. It feels good to be in a position to do something about it personally."
Kramer, 70, said he earned $8,000 in his first year in the league and got a $300 raise in the second year before his salary jumped to $9,000 annually when he was All-Pro in his third year. He eventually earned $27,000 to $28,000 a year before retiring.
Many players from his era began drawing pensions at age 45, he said, only to see them drop dramatically when they turned 62 and could start drawing Social Security. And a number are without private medical insurance, he said.
NFL spokesman Greg Aiello said last week that those who played before 1959 were not originally in the NFL pension plan, although they were added years ago. The league spends $5 million a month on retirement and disability benefits for more than 2,500 players, he said.
Kramer, who inexplicably has fallen short of being inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame, said his pension dropped from $454 a month to $158 when he turned 62. He said the NFL also adds $200 a month for the single year he played before 1959.
"We've got 350 guys making somewhere between $128 dollars a month and $400 dollars a month," Kramer said. "That's what I want to impact. That's what is bothering my heart and making me upset. I want to focus on that and try to spend some time with that."
Kramer began his quest by auctioning off the replica Super Bowl I ring he has made when he lost the original. The ring, sold through Mastro Auctions, drew $22,634 from a Green Bay, WI, when bidding closed on Friday.
That money will be used toward aiding veterans of Kramer's era, and Kramer now is hoping the get the help of other NFL veterans and families to contribute more items to be auctioned, either later this year or early next year. Kramer feels that there is potential to raise $3 million to $4 million more for needy veterans, many of whom are in pain from their days on the football field.
Kramer, no doubt, has gotten the attention of the NFL through his actions. Let's hope the league can help these veterans, not forget about them. They paved the way for the league's unmatched success. Kudos to Kramer for getting the ball to roll in the right direction.
Todd Korth is managing editor of PackerReport.com and Packer Report. E-mail him at email@example.com.