In April, the NFL Players Association filed a non-injury grievance against the NFL claiming that teams have conspired to violate the Collective Bargaining Agreement requirements on dispensing prescription painkillers to players.
The NFL disclosed the document Monday in a legal filing in response to a lawsuit filed by former Chicago defensive end Richard Dent, who claims teams handed out painkillers to players without disclosing the health risks involved. He had filed an earlier claim that was dismissed in federal court in 2014 by a federal judge who said the CBA was the forum to resolve his claim. The case is currently in a federal appeals court.
Part of paperwork is a grievance filed by the players association legal department and one of the addendums under the title “Admissions By Club Medical Personnel” included an e-mail by Minnesota Vikings head trainer Eric Sugarman – one communication of five listed in the attachment (Atlanta, Minnesota, Buffalo, Cincinnati and Pittsburgh).
The e-mail included read as follows in the legal filing:
In an e-mail dated January 7, 2008 to various team doctors and personnel, Minnesota Vikings head trainer Eric Sugarman stated “Here is week 17’s fiasco .......... The following items did not match up this week. 1. Total of 16 Ambien given out was recorded – however only 11 Ambien were missing from the kit. 2. Total of 21 Toradol shots were recorded – however only 20 Toradol shots were missing from the kit. 3. Total of 1 Diphenhydramine shots were missing with no record of dispensing. There have been several times where the drug sheet and restock sheet didn’t match but it was easily reconciled that day. There have been two incidences of drugs that have not been accounted for at all. 1. 12/17/07 – Missing all 12 pills of cyclobenzaprine. 2. 12/23/07 – Missing all 10 pills of SMZ/TMP 800 -160 mg. In the case of the SMZ/TMP the whole bottle itself was missing from the kit.”
The case claims that the NFL violated Article 39 of the CBA, dealing with rights afforded players under medical care and treatment provisions. Included in the legal brief is the lawsuit filed by the widow of former Viking Chuck Evans, who died of heart failure at age 41 in 2008. He played with the Vikings from 1993-98 and the Ravens in 1999-2000.
The lawsuit isn’t the first such case that has been brought against the NFL for the long-term effects of playing professional football and it likely won’t be the last.
The Vikings may have logical explanations for their issues accounting for some missing drugs, but, in the realm of justice, excuses don’t count as much as what can be factually proved. In part, the Vikings e-mail that was sent in January 2008 is being used as part of a bigger-picture framework for the litigation that will become more and more high profile in the coming years with cases setting precedents for the future.