The NFL is accused of hiding what it knew about players' head injuries. The players' union is getting second-guessed for not taking safety more seriously. And another judge is getting familiar with all the legal arguments.
Not the way the league wanted to kick off a season.
The debate over concussions and a $765 million settlement with former
players is still front-and-center as the defending Super Bowl champion
Baltimore Ravens get ready to open the season in Denver on Thursday
Sure, the settlement gives former players immediate help with their
medical bills. A drawn-out court fight was avoided. And safety is a
bigger concern than ever in the league.
Yet, the back-and-forth goes unabated with so many questions unanswered.
"You can say it's Pandora's box that's been opened," former NFL
quarterback Boomer Esiason said on the eve of the season opener, "but
they are trying to find solutions. As a former player, I'm thankful
they're doing that."
More than 4,500 former players had sued the league, accusing it of
concealing the long-term dangers of concussions and rushing players
back onto the field. They settled last Thursday after two months of
Approval of a federal judge is required before it takes effect. The NFL
doesn't have to acknowledge that it hid information about injuries.
NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell defended the settlement on Wednesday in
his first public comments since it was announced. Goodell appeared at
an event in Manhattan promoting the Super Bowl in the area next
"I don't know how it's going to be remembered," Goodell said of the
settlement. "I know what its effect is going to be, which is going to
provide help for the players and the families that have cognitive
issues. There's a fund — $765 million — that's there for players and
their families who need it. And that's a good thing.
"Rather than litigating for years, the owners, the NFL, and frankly the
plaintiffs, all said, 'Let's go do something that's great for the game
and great for the people and get the help to the people that need it.'"
Three days after the settlement was announced, four other former
players filed a federal lawsuit in New Orleans against the league and
helmet maker Riddell, claiming they hid information about the dangers
of brain injuries.
The lawsuit on behalf of Jimmy Williams, Rich Mauti, Jimmy Keyes and
Nolan Franz wants medical care for past, current and future NFL players.
During a conference call on Wednesday highlighting Fox Sports' coverage
for the season, former Super Bowl champions Troy Aikman and John Lynch
agreed that the league has more work to do on head injuries.
Aikman wants the NFL to divulge more details about what it knew about
the long-term impact of repeated blows to the head. Lynch expects more
"What I'm happy about is that there are players that need it (the
money) and need it now, and they're going to be taken care of," Lynch
said. "But I think the notion that this is done now and we can move on
is not really the reality."
While neither player was part of the original lawsuit, both have
experience with blows to the head.
Lynch was a hard-hitting safety in Tampa Bay and Denver from 1993
through 2007. Aikman won three Super Bowls with the Cowboys during the
1990s, but his 12-year career ended prematurely in part because of
Lynch and Aikman said they feel "great" and have shown no symptoms of
long-term damage. Aikman was recently tested in Dallas, with good
While Aikman believes the settlement will help the former players with
the most immediate need, he called the end result a "win" for the NFL.
"It's a lot of money, but I think in terms of what could have been
paid, it's not that much," Aikman said. "I think probably in the big
scheme of things, it's a real positive. These guys will be able to
benefit some and some money will be put into research, which will help.
"The one thing I'm disappointed about is that the NFL didn't have to
acknowledge what they knew about (the long-term impact) and when they
knew about it. I think full disclosure would have been the best way to
"But that's not going to happen now."
Esiason was a union representative with the Cincinnati Bengals in the
1980s, leading them to their second Super Bowl appearance. He pointed
out that the union could have pushed harder for player safety.
"I've never been one to shirk the personal responsibility aspect of all
this, too — that I do deserve some blame," said Esiason, appearing at
an event with Goodell later in the day in Baltimore. "I think the union
deserves a lot of blame for not taking this issue seriously 25-30 years
"It's unfortunate we have to come to a settlement likes this. But I
think, at the end of the day, it's a good deal."
Concussions in forefront as NFL season opens
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