Boyd Blasts NFL

Former Viking guard Brent Boyd was among the former players to speak in front a Congressional sub-committee Tuesday about the failings of the NFL's policy of granting former players disability and helping them with the loss of productivity and normalcy of life due to their playing careers.

Brent Boyd, a Vikings offensive lineman from 1980-86, was among the former players who spoke to a Congressional committee Tuesday about the problems retired players have in getting pension benefits from the league and the mounting health issues that plague former players.

Boyd spoke before the House Judiciary subcommittee, along with several other players. Curt Marsh, who played with the Raiders from 1981-87 and spoke about having more than 30 surgeries, including a leg amputation, said he was denied disability payments for years despite his long track record of surgeries and complications from surgery. Boyd, a single father, discussed being homeless for extended periods as well as suffering brain damage as the result of multiple concussions.

The league countered that $1.1 billion has been set aside for a disability/pension fund and that more than $20 million in disability payments are paid out each year. To hear Boyd describe it, however, it is very different.

"Now that they have put the lipstick on the pig, I want to tell you what reality is," Boyd told the sub-committee, adding that the league's retirement policy has the unofficial mantra "delay, deny and hope I put a bullet in my head."

"The NFL was hoping I would go away and die," Boyd said.

Among the others to speak were Mike Ditka and an attorney for the late Mike Webster, who was denied full disability before his death in 2002.

The committee cited that just 317 players are currently on full disability with a payout of $20 million, prompting Rep. Maxine Waters (D-Calif.), whose husband is a former NFL player, to question how so few players can be receiving full benefits.

"In one of the most dangerous sports in the history of mankind, only 317 are receiving disability?" she asked.

Ditka made an impassioned plea to the sub-committee to put pressure on the NFL to recognize those who helped build the game and paid for it with their own long-term health. At the end of the meeting, Boyd gave Ditka a hug and said, "Thanks, Coach."

The thought of a Vikings player and a Bears coach being on the same side of an issue would strike a lot of people as strange, but, as more of these horror stories emerge in the comings weeks and months, the strange bedfellows banding together for a mutual cause might become a much more common scene.

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