SBD/January 27, 2014/Leagues and Governing Bodies

Survey Shows NFL Players More Worried About Leg Injuries Than Concussions

Rob Gronkowski's knee injury was just one of the incidents cited by players
A survey showed that NFL players "worry about head injuries and their potential long-term consequences but not nearly as much as they worry about injuries to their legs, particularly their knees, that can end careers," according to Barzilai & Brady of USA TODAY. When asked what body part they were most concerned about injuring, 46% of players "said knees or other parts of their legs," while 24% "said head and neck and 26% said none." The poll was conducted among 293 NFL players across 20 teams from mid-December to early January. Bears RB Michael Bush said, "Anytime you can avoid hits to the head it's great, but if you get hit in your knees, that's your career." The survey also asked players "whether NFL rule changes on hits to the head had made the game safer." Around 39% "said they had, but a majority -- 53% -- said safety was about the same and 8% said the game was less safe." To many players, they are "in a no-win situation -- more rules to avoid hits to the head are causing more hits to the knees." Univ. of North Carolina Senior Associate Dean for Natural Sciences Kevin Guskiewicz said, "I don't think they perceive concussions as season-ending or career-ending." But Guskiewicz said that players are "much more tuned in to the dangers of concussions today than they were even a few years ago." Guskiewicz: "I think we are making progress, but it still speaks to being ready next week or next season and not being quite ready to think about what they'll be like at 45 or 55" (USA TODAY, 1/27). Meanwhile, ESPN.com's John Keim reports 85% of the 320 NFL players surveyed in an anonymous poll stated that they "would play in the Super Bowl with a concussions." Titans S Bernard Pollard said, "They don't want to let themselves down. They don't want to let their teammates down. They want to go out there and play, not thinking about, 'OK what can this affect later on down the line'" (ESPN.com, 1/27).

DEAL FALLING APART? In Philadelphia, Jeremy Roebuck wrote the "nay-saying has begun" about the NFL's proposed $765M concussion settlement. Lawyers have "emerged seeking to poach clients from their current attorneys with questionable promises of big paydays for those who take their chances in court." The "drumbeat of public skepticism has grown so pronounced, some fear a significant number of players could opt out of the deal, undermining the overall impact of the NFL's offer." In an effort to "keep together the coalition of more than 4,500 retired players that helped drive the league to the negotiating table, the attorneys who helped craft the proposal are planning a nationwide strategy to ease anxieties and sell players and their lawyers on the plan." Attorney Sol Weiss, who was co-lead counsel on the former players' lawsuit, said, "I honestly believe this is the best deal the players are going to get. There are a number of very tough legal hurdles they'll have to overcome in a lawsuit if they're going to take the NFL to court and win." Sources said that the tone at a meeting last week among about 50 lawyers for the plaintiffs "remained mostly civil," but the atmosphere "grew tense at times." Some "have questioned how the plan effectively divides retired players into two camps: those who sued the league early on and must pay their lawyers a cut of any payment they receive, and those who never sued but are now eligible for compensation due to the NFL's insistence on a class-action settlement." Attorney Philip Thomas said, "Settlements tend to be final. You don't go back and change them later" (PHILADELPHIA INQUIRER, 1/26).

FINE WITH JUDGE TAKING HER TIME: NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell this morning said District Court Judge Anita Brody is "making sure she's totally comfortable with the settlement, and that's a good thing." Goodell: "We want her to be thorough and we want her to make sure she's comfortable with all of the projections both parties came to an agreement under. ... She wants more information to fully understand it and we're following her process. Our goal is simply to get this resolved and get the money to the former players as quick as possible" ("Mike & Mike, ESPN Radio, 1/27).

HAVING DOUBTS: In San Diego, Michael Gehlken reported attorneys representing late NFLer Junior Seau's family on Friday "formally expressed concerns" with the proposed settlement." Attorneys for Seau's family in a filing in U.S. District Court in Philadelphia alleged that "wrongful death is not being sufficiently differentiated from injured players in the settlement." The attorneys also "cautioned about time," suggesting that under the settlement's current language, if a plaintiff opts out, the length of the appeal process "is worrisome" (SAN DIEGO UNION-TRIBUNE, 1/25).
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