NFL Player Youth Football Camp Grant Program

NFL Player Youth Football Camp Grant Program

About the Program

Through the NFL Youth Football Fund (YFF) NFL Player Camp Grant Program, grants of up to $4,000 are awarded to free, non-contact youth football clinics and camps organized by current and former NFL players. This program recognizes NFL players who give back to communities in their hometowns or team cities while also illustrating how players set positive examples for young football participants by emphasizing sportsmanship and involvement in community-wide charitable projects. 

Who Can Apply

Current & Former NFL players

  • Only former NFL players vested under the Bert Bell/Pete Rozelle NFL Player Retirement Plan may apply for NFL Player Camp Grants 

2012 Important Dates

Application opens: April 19, 2012

Application deadline: May 18, 2012.

Grant determinations will be made by May 31, 2012.

Award Amount

Grant awards of up to $4,000 

New Opportunity For 2012 Grant Applicants

A new opportunity exists in 2012 for NFL players to partner with USA Football’s FUNdamentals program which is designed to provide a turnkey, non-contact, youth football clinic in your community. Detailed information on USA Football’s FUNdamentals program can be found in the 2012 NFL Player Camp Grant Application Guide. 

Detailed Requirements

The following provides an overview of this grant initiative as well as information that eligible applicants will need to provide in order to successfully apply for a grant award. We suggest you read this thoroughly before proceeding with an application.

  • Based on approved applications, only one grant per camp will be awarded regardless if there are multiple NFL players hosting the camp.
  • The YFF can only support one camp grant per approved NFL player applicant. Multiple camp
    grants no longer will be offered.
  • Camps must be non-contact and completely free of charge for youth participants.
  • Camps must offer at least four hours of activities (either in a single day session or over several days).
  • Each camp must be established in the NFL player applicant’s name and be organized and attended by the player.
  • NFL players must verify existence of a separate camp bank account – The NFL Youth Football Fund will not issue grant checks to personal bank accounts.
  • NFL player applicants must utilize USA Football accredited coaches to help coach and supervise football camp activities.
  • In order to be eligible for YFF Camp Grant funds, camps must be separate in nature from any promotional or for-profit activities/events scheduled to take place in conjunction with the free camp (e.g., applicants who claim to scholarship youth participants in a free camp while they also are hosting youth participants who must pay registration fees)

Application Guide

The NFL Player Camp Grant Application Guide (PDF)
The NFL Best Practices Guide (PDF)

HS FOOTBALL PLAYERS TO PARTICIPATE IN NFL CHARACTER AND SKILL DEVELOPMENT PROGRAM

MORE THAN 40,000 HIGH SCHOOL FOOTBALL PLAYERS TO PARTICIPATE IN NATIONWIDE NFL CHARACTER AND SKILL DEVELOPMENT PROGRAM

NFL High School Player Development Program Presented by the National Guard To Be Held at 200 Sites in all 50 States This Spring and Summer 

More than 40,000 high school football players will focus on character development, life skills and on-field techniques from May-August as part of the NFL High School Player Development (HSPD) program which is presented by the National Guard through the NFL Youth Football Fund. 

Since its inception in 2001, the HSPD program has provided participants with a curriculum that focuses on inspiring excellence in the classroom, community, and on the playing field. The program, which is funded by the National Guard through the NFL Youth Football Fund, is free for students and will be implemented at more than 200 sites in all 50 states and Puerto Rico this spring and summer. 

The character development and life skills portion of the week often features guest speakers and discussions on life after high school. Students also will take part in a Center for Disease Control (CDC) session about player safety, including concussion treatment and management. 

This is the fourth year of the National Guard’s sponsorship of the HSPD program. During each session, members of the National Guard will speak with participants about personal development and community service while providing support to coaches on site. 

Each participant receives an HSPD Student Planner, NCAA initial eligibility requirements, and time management instruction. 

On-field components of the HSPD program include fundamental skill development by position, reviews, and individual competitions. As part of on-field training, players focus on both an offensive and defensive position, and eventually apply their newly-learned fundamentals to live drills. Participants have access to innovative teaching and drills developed by leading NCAA coaches. The 2012 Instructional DVD and Practice Plan was produced by Vanderbilt University .

In addition, HSPD kits will be sent to high school football coaches nationwide this year, impacting more than one million high school football players. 

Please visit www.nflhspd.com for the most up-to-date information on HSPD sites. 

About the NFL Youth Football Fund 

Established in 1998 by the NFL and the NFL Players Association, the NFL Youth Football Fund (YFF) seeks to use football as a catalyst to promote positive youth development, support youth and high school football needs nationwide and ensure the health of amateur football participation. Through the YFF’s youth football initiatives and support programs, young athletes are provided with opportunities to learn the game of football, get physically fit and stay involved in productive after-school activities with adult mentors. The YFF also provides youngsters with safe and accessible places to play, as well as programs and initiatives that address the importance of proper coaching, health and safety and life skills development. For more information, visit http://www.nflyff.org/

About the Army National Guard

The Army National Guard is the oldest component of the United States armed forces. The first militia regiments were organized by the General Court of the Massachusetts Bay Colony on December 13, 1636. From the Pequot War in 1637 until the present day, the Army National Guard has participated in every war or conflict this nation has fought. The motto of the today’s National Guard is “always ready, always there.” The Guard is proud to support young, aspiring student-athletes by providing them with an opportunity to develop fundamental football skills by position, reviews and individual competitions in combination with mandatory character development instruction. The Guard not only protects communities in times of natural disaster but they also provide emergency assistance in extreme situations, which requires teamwork, dedication, determination, and innovation. As these high school athletes will soon learn, the qualities and skills needed to serve as a citizen-soldier are also the qualities essential to making a great football player. 

Update on Eller/Gault v. NFLPA Lawsuit

Dear NFL Alumni:

In September and October of 2011, 47 former NFL players, including 27 Hall of Famers representing every decade in pro football since the 1940′s, filed a class action lawsuit against the NFLPA. The class representatives represent virtually every position in football, and every category of NFL player – including vested, non-vested, Hall of Famers, forgotten players, and legends of the game. The lawsuit was filed on behalf of all former NFL players and seeks to increase the retirement benefits of all players – vested and non-vested

As one of the representatives in the Eller/Gault v. NFLPA Lawsuit, I want to update you on the status of the case. Our lawyers have provided us with the following information:

On February 15, 2012 the District of Minnesota held oral arguments in front of United States Federal Court Judge Susan Nelson on the NFLPA’s Motion to Dismiss the case.

In attendance for the retired players were Carl Eller, Paul Krause, Ryan Collins, Dan Johnson, and Shawn Stuckey. Lawyers for the retired players in attendance were Michael Hausfeld and Swathi Bojedla of Hausfeld LLP, and Mark Feinberg and Shawn Stuckey for Zelle Hofmann. In attendance for the NFLPA were Jeffrey Kessler, David Greenspan, and Heather McPhee.

Michael Hausfeld

Although they could not get into the substance or merits of the arguments that were made, Shawn Stuckey reported that Michael Hausfeld argued passionately and effectively to the Court and made a very strong case as to why the Court should not dismiss the case.

Following the oral argument, the Court asked for post-argument submissions from both parties; both parties complied with the Court’s request.

As of today, the Court still has not ruled on the case.

While our lawyers feel positive about our chances in district court, if Judge Nelson of the District of Minnesota rules against us in this case, they feel confident that the Eighth Circuit will be sympathetic to the arguments they have made.

As soon as we receive a ruling from the Court, I will make sure that retired players are aware of the ruling.

 

From the Office of the NFL Commissioner

We received the following communication from Joe Browne, Senior Advisor to the Commissioner and we wanted to make sure that as many retired players as possible had an opportunity to read the correspondence.

Dear Retired Player:

The following items may interest you:

Attached is a four-page summary of the recent record-based study by the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) of all retirees who played in the NFL for at least five seasons from 1959 through 1988.  We previewed this study in the most recent NFL RETIRED PLAYER NEWS that was emailed to you on April 24. NIOSH also sent via regular mail a copy of this same information to the 3,439 players whose records were used for the study.

More than 250 retirees who had been waiting to hear from the Pension Benefit office in Baltimore regarding their Legacy payments were mailed information on their individual cases in recent weeks.  One of the last group of retirees to receive information will be those players who have QDROs and also receive Disability Benefits.  Also, the 320 widows and other beneficiaries of vested pre-93 players who died prior to the 2011 CBA being signed still are awaiting word from the NFLPA regarding those Legacy benefits.  The league is on record as stating they it will pay 51% of the costs for the widows benefit if the NFLPA pays the balance.

The NFL Alumni Association announced over this past weekend at a Board meeting in Arizona the resignation of Executive Director George Martin, who had served in that post since October, 2009.  Ex-Giants quarterback Joe Pisarcik, who serves as the non-salaried President of the Alumni Association, also will act as interim Executive Director until a fulltime successor is named. Incidentally, the Association’s annual Super Bowl of Golf, which matches winning teams from all local Alumni chapters, was  held in conjunction with the Board meeting and was won by a team led by ex-Bears quarterback Jim McMahon. Congratulations.

All of us in the NFL family mourn the death of NFL great Junior Seau last week.  There will be a private memorial service and burial this Friday, May 11 in Oceanside, California followed by a public memorial that same night at Qualcomm Stadium, the home of the Chargers and site for many of Junior’s on-the field heroics.

Joe Browne

Senior Advisor to the Commissioner

Attachment:   NFL_Health_Study_3-29-12

Mike Florio’s Pro Football Talk is cheap – on concussion lawsuits

In a recent article, Mike Florio, a writer for Pro Football Talk says “One of the biggest hurdles facing the former players suing the NFL for concussions suffered during their playing careers arises from the claim that the NFL failed to warn the players regarding the risks of concussions. The NFL undoubtedly will defend that specific allegation by arguing that, even if warnings had been issued, the players would not have stopped playing football. Supporting that contention will be the fact that no NFL player has retired due to fear of potential harm from concussions. Yes, some have retired due to the immediate consequences of multiple concussions. But no NFL player, current or prospective, has passed on playing football at its highest level due merely to the fear that the player may suffer one or more concussions that may cause problems for him later in life.”

Under Mr. Florio’s line of reasoning, let’s compare pro football to some other dangerous professions – and look at what those employees knew before and after they started working.

The police officer, firefighter and construction worker know that they can be seriously injured or even killed on the job, but does the fear of that happening stop them from entering their chosen profession?  Of course not!  So why would Mike Florio use this argument – for the NFL owners – as a defense against the claims of professional football players? 

I don’t think that Mr. Florio looks at most pro football players as serious, rational human beings.  In an article posted on PFT, he once said “We realize that football players often have a very linear approach to reality, and that problems typically are confronted by dropping a shoulder and running at them, full speed.  In many situations, however, a more careful and reasoned approach is required.”

That’s a cheap shot!

So what does Mr. Florio think the retired player’s careful and reasoned approach should be to the issue of concussions?  Should we hope and pray that the NFL will do the right thing and compensate retired players for the traumatic brain injuries they sustained while playing pro football?  Should we try to negotiate a settlement outside of court intervention?  Should we picket the games, or should we just lay down our arms, roll over and accept the premise that concussions are just part of the game; an acceptable form of collateral damage?   

In his article, Mr. Florio also says that “Highlighting the fact that fear of concussions has yet to scare away incoming players is the arrival at the NFL level of receiver Nick Toon. The son of Al Toon, who ultimately left the game due to the debilitating effects of multiple serious concussions, Nick Toon will join the Saints.”

In my opinion, Nick Toon should split his signing bonus with his father.  Al Toon and many other retired player advocates have done a lot to raise awareness on the issue of concussions.  By doing so, retired players have helped to make the NFL world a better place to live and play. 

I would also like to point out that there are many children of police officers, firefighters and construction workers that have followed in the footsteps of their fathers and mothers – even after their parents were injured and killed on the job. Despite that fact, Mr. Florio thinks that professional football players should just walk away from the game now that they know the risks.  

I’m not saying that the job of a pro football player is as important to our society as a police officer or a fireman – because it isn’t.  But that doesn’t mean we should be treated differently in a court of law. Those other professionals routinely file suit against the government and companies that are negligent in their responsibility to their employees, so why can’t retired players – without someone saying we wouldn’t have listened to warnings anyway?   

The good news for active players is that the risks are getting smaller because the NFL has started addressing concussions and player safety in many different ways. For example, mandatory pre and post concussion testing, independent doctor analysis of player concussions, better equipment, rule changes, additional research and the list goes on. It’s not perfect, but it’s a start.        

The new generation of players should be extremely grateful to retired players for raising public awareness about the problems associated with concussions. We took our message all the way to the halls of Congress – ad now the courts. The only reason the NFL is making the game safer for today’s players, is because retired player made it an issue.  That’s the retired player “Legacy” in action!  

Dave Duerson and Ray Easterling are devastating examples of how far some players are willing to go to send a message to the NFL that something needs to be done.

All players know about the risk of injury from playing football, but that isn’t the issue in the court cases. The lawsuits allege that the NFL intentionally and fraudulently misled players who reasonably relied upon the NFL’s expertise about its own sport on the short-term and long-term risks posed by concussions and head trauma. Rather than warn its players that they risked permanent brain injury if they returned to play too soon after sustaining a concussion, the NFL actively deceived players, resulting in the players’ belief that concussions did not present serious, life-altering risks.

For the record, Mr. Florio doesn’t say that retired player’s claims lack merit, he just thinks that “….as players who now know all they need to know about the risks associated with playing football continue to flock to the NFL, it will be harder and harder to get a judge or a jury to accept that players would have walked away from the sport if they had known then what all players know now.’

Ultimately, the courts will decide if the NFL is guilty and therefore liable for damages, but I doubt that Mr. Florio’s proposed “walk away” defense for the owners will do much to sway a judge or jury.

In one of the comments posted, in response to Mr. Florio’s article, a fan said it best: “Seriously, if  “they wouldn’t have listened anyway” is their [the owners] best argument, they better be stashing away settlement cash by the truckload now ’cause they are going to lose big with that reasoning.”

Mr. Florio has talked the talk, but retired players have walked the walk……. and we are not walking away from this issue.

Talk is cheap unless it’s backed up by deeds. In filing 65 lawsuits that cover over 1,300 former players, we are taking action. And yes, Mr. Florio – Sean Salisbury is right, there is strength in numbers.

There is no disconnect between current and former players on the issue of concussions as Mike Florio suggests in his article. We are united with active players in making the game safer. Retired players helped to connect the dots that show concussions lead to serious problems in later life and we are united with active players in making sure that the best medical treatment is available to past, present and future players.

Most retired players still love the game and we will continue to be ambassadors for the NFL, but that doesn’t mean we will just overlook the problems that occurred when we played the game. The lawsuits are not personal….they’re just business. It may surprise Mr. Florio, but the owners understand this and that’s why they invited some of the players that are suing them to announce the draft picks last week.

To be totally fair, the NFL has done some things that directly benefit the older generation of retired players who have developed symptoms that we believe are related to TBI (Traumatic Brain Injury). In the 2006 CBA they established the 88 Plan that pays for the care of former players that have developed Alzheimer’s, dementia and ALS.  Although that was a good victory for former players, the NFL put language in that CBA making it clear that they do not admit in any way, shape or form that those illnesses resulted from concussions a player sustained while playing in the NFL. 

In the new CBA, the League also created the Neuro-Cognitive benefit, but that benefit only covers players that are vested and have at least one credited after 1994, and it requires that any former player receiving the benefit sign a form agreeing not to sue the NFL now, or in the future. With a single stroke of a pen, they substantially reduced their future liability for concussion related lawsuits.

The League is going to fight the current lawsuits with everything they have, and whether we win or lose those individual battles, retired players can always take pride in knowing that we have already won the war.  Retired player advocacy has improved player safety and has forever changed the way that concussions are handled by the NFL.   

The victory did not come cheap. Some players have paid the ultimate price. I hope the NFLPA and the NFL remember the retired player sacrifices the next time the CBA is up for negotiation.      

The Legacy of Ray Easterling

Dear Alumni:

To date, 61 lawsuits covering over 1,200 former players have been filed against the NFL over the issue of concussions.

How did this floodgate of lawsuits begin?  Who had the courage to take on the NFL and get this avalanche started?

It was Ray Easterling………and no one should ever forget that.

He was part of a group of seven former players who sued the league in Philadelphia on August 17, 2011, contending that it had failed to properly treat players for concussions and for decades had tried to conceal any links between football and brain injuries. Ray’s wife, Mary Ann Easterling is also a plaintiff in that law suit.

As most of you know, we lost Ray last Thursday when he died of a self-inflicted gunshot wound at his home in Richmond, Va. If you haven’t done so already, please send your condolences to the family at this website: Ray Easterling Legacy Guestbook 

His wife Mary Ann said “He had been feeling more and more pain. He felt like his brain was falling off. He was losing control. He couldn’t remember things from five minutes ago. It was frightening, especially somebody who had all the plays memorized as a player when he stepped on the field.” 

Both Ray and I played football at the University of Richmond. He graduated 7 years before I got there and went on to play for the Atlanta Falcons from 1972-1979. Ray’s last year in the NFL was my first year. In 1979 I got drafted by the Buffalo Bills. That same year, Ray personally came to the University and searched for me. When he finally found me, he asked me if I wanted to work out with him to get in shape for my first year in the NFL. I said yes, but little did I know what I was getting into.

Before we started working out, I thought I was in good shape, but he showed me I wasn’t even close to being in the kind of condition I needed to be in – physically, mentally and even more importantly, spiritually. Ray ran me ragged on the track, on the football field and in our cross-country workouts. He made me do more than I thought I could do in the weight room. He pushed me beyond the boundaries of endurance that I set for myself. I don’t know if Ray knew how much he helped me – not only in preparing me for the game of pro football – but in preparing me for the game of life.

Now I sit here wishing I had the chance to tell him.

Ray gave everything to the NFL, to his coaches and to his teammates….. and now I wonder if it was worth it. I have always said that regardless of the injuries I incurred during my playing days, I wouldn’t trade my experience in the NFL for anything, but then something like this happens and it makes you think twice. If you had to do it all over again…..would you?

Over the past year, Ray and I were in constant contact with each other, by phone and through emails. In one of his emails he said My memory and symptoms seem to be accelerating and I told Mary Ann the other night – Did you ever in your wildest dreams think this is the way I would go out”?

I don’t think Ray wanted to live a life knowing that someday he would not know who his friends and family were. I don’t think he wanted to put his wife in a position of taking care of him for the rest of her life. In the end I think he decided that quality of life was more important to him then quantity of life.

The last time I saw Ray was in November of 2009. We were being honored by the University of Richmond for being selected to the All-Time U of R Football Team. I have attached a short video I took of Ray at the VIP Tailgate party they held for the honorees.

This is how I want to remember him.

Mary Ann Easterling said she would continue to pursue the lawsuit and urge the league to establish a fund for players with traumatic brain injuries.

If we beat the NFL in court and get an award, we should all take a moment to remember how it all got started and honor Ray’s Legacy by calling it the Easterling Fund.

Your alumni brother,

Jeff Nixon

The deferred Legacy Benefit calculation for former players ages 55 to 64

If you are a retired player between the ages of 55 and 64 (as of August 4, 2011) and you are still thinking about deferring their Legacy Benefit, the actuarial increase formula is a little different than the one I talked about in the article: When should you take your NFL Pension and Legacy Fund benefits? 

You would use the same chart (attached below) that is used for the regular Bert Bell/Pete Rozelle Pension and the Legacy Benefit, but you will need to calculate an “individual retirement factor” to accurately project what your deferred benefit would look like at certain ages from 55 to age 65. 

The individual retirement factor is calculated as follows: Your age (retirement factor) when you decide to take the benefit, divided by your age (retirement factor) on August 4, 2011. The official Retirement Plan office calculations are done using your age, to the exact day. 

For example, let’s say you were age 60 on August 4, 2011, but you want to see what your Legacy benefit would be at age 65.   

Here is how the “Individual Retirement Factor” is calculated, using the Retirement Factor Chart: 

2.619 (age 65 retirement factor) ÷ 1.573 (age 60 retirement factor) = 1.665 

You would then multiply 1.665 by your Legacy Benefit credit.   

The Legacy benefit credit for a player vested prior to 1993 is:  

        $124 per Credited Season before 1975

        $108 per Credited Season from 1975 through 1992 

For this example, let’s say you played from 1969 to 1976 and had 8 credited seasons.  Your Legacy Benefit credit would be ($124 x 6 + $108 x 2) = $960. 

The Legacy Benefit credit of $960 is then multiplied by the “individual retirement factor” of 1.665 to estimate the increased Legacy Benefit at age 65. 

Based on the example, the payment for a player 60 years of age who defers the Legacy benefit until age 65 would be approximately $1,598. 

The amount of the benefit could be further adjusted depending on which “election” you decide to take at the time of retirement. 

If you were 55 or older as of August 4, 2011 and you are deferring your Legacy benefit, you can use this same formula to calculate what your projected Legacy benefit payment would be at any given age from 55 up to 65. 

RETIREMENT FACTOR CHART                         

Age

Retirement Factor

55

1.000

56

1.091

57

1.191

58

1.305

59

1.431

60

1.573

61

1.733

62

1.913

63

2.118

64

2.352

65

2.619

 

This presentation is simplified to show how the basic calculation is done. As I mentioned previously, the exact calculations is done using your age – to the exact day.  You should always check with the NFL Plan Office to get an official projection of benefits. 

 

The NFL’s pre-retirement death benefit for widows and survivors

I was extremely proud to see the NFL Alumni Association and its Executive Director, George Martin take the lead in addressing the problem of NFL widows being denied survivor benefits if their husband died before Aug. 4, 2012.  I wrote about this issue back on January 25, 2012 in an article entitled: NFL Legacy Benefit leaves widows and beneficiaries on the sidelines

As you know, Mr. Martin invited Sylvia Mackey to speak on this issue at the Super Bowl press conference.  

The NFL Alumni will continue to advocate on behalf of our deceased alumni and the wives and families that cared for them up until they passed.  We will not rest in peace until this issue is adequately addressed by the NFL and NFLPA. They both negotiated and agreed to the terms of this benefit in the CBA, so they both need to collectively rectify this problem. 

During the time leading up to the Super Bowl Press conference, I received a number of emails from wives regarding survivor benefits and there was some confusion about the benefits that are available for wives and beneficiaries for players that die before they take their pension, so I thought it might be helpful to review this benefit. 

These benefits are part of the Bert Bell Pete Rozelle Retirement Plan and are typically much larger than the Joint and Survivor Annuity and the other elections that beneficiaries receive if their husbands die after they have started receiving their retirement benefits. 

It is important to remember that as soon as a former player takes his pension, this pre-retirement Death Benefit is no longer available for their wife or beneficiary. This is one of the reasons I recommend that players think carefully before taking early retirement.     

If a player dies before he begins receiving his Bert Bell Pete Rozelle Retirement Plan benefits, the following Death Benefits are available: 

The Widows and Surviving Children’s Pre-Retirement Death Benefit

For vested players who earned credited seasons from 1977 through 1981, a minimum benefit of $6,000 a month is paid for 4 years and for players who played from 1982 and thereafter, a minimum benefit of $9,000 a month is paid for 4 years. 

At the end of 4 years, the payment reverts back to $3,600 a month for the rest of the wife’s life, or until she remarries, and then to surviving children, if any, who are eligible. The cutoff date for children is 19 years of age (23 if in college, or continuously if the child is mentally or physically incapacitated). Again, this baseline amount will increase in 2014 and 2018. 

The benefit is equal to 50% of a player’s benefit credits, but not less than $3,600 a month. A player would have to be receiving a monthly pension that is over $7,200 a month in order for them to get more than $3,600 a month. In the current CBA, the $3,600 amount goes up to $4,000 on January 1, 2014 and $4,400 on January 1, 2018. 

There is also an alternative death benefit – the “Spouse’s Pre-Retirement Death Benefit” available to players that have at least one hour of service after August 23, 1984.  It’s less than the “Widows and Surviving Children’s Benefit”, but it pays a widow even after remarriage.  

These pre-retirement death benefits are good to have, but the NFL and NFLPA still need to do something for the wives and beneficiaries of players that passed away before August 4, 2011 and were not included in the survivor benefits under the Legacy Plan.

They Can do it, the question is…..Will they do it?  

If they don’t, then they need to take the word “Legacy” out of the name of this benefit.

The NFL’s Neuro-Cognitive Disability Benefit

Many types of football injuries can end a player’s career, but a head injury can end a player’s quality of life long after their football career is over.  I was one of the fortunate players that never got “knocked out”, but I did get my bell rung on numerous occasions. My wife swears that I have short-term memory loss.  Anyway…..what was I talking about?  Oh yeah, head injuries!

I am glad to see the NFL and NFLPA doing more to prevent, reduce and treat players that have suffered concussions. Commissioner Goodell said “We want to make sure all NFL players, coaches and staff members are fully informed and take advantage of the most up-to-date information and resources as we continue to study the long-term impact of concussions.”

The NFL’s new guidelines on concussion management include a telephone hotline that make it easier to report to the League when a player with a head injury is being forced to practice or play against medical advice. All players are now given baseline cognitive tests during their training camp physicals.  When a player sustains a concussion they are required to take the test again to determine if they have improved enough to be allowed to play again.  

NFL rule changes have been instituted to make certain head hits illegal. Some players have been heavily fined for using their helmets as a weapon.  On a side note, I like the fact that the fine money goes into the Players Assistance Trust Fund to help retired players having financial and medical problems. That’s karmic justice, because the concussion issue was brought to the attention of the public of the due to the advocacy of retired players – not active players.  We saw what was happening to our fellow alumni long after the cheering had stopped.

In addition to the new concussion testing requirements, rule changes and better equipment – especially compared to when we played – the League has done some things to allow players to be compensated for injuries and medical conditions related to the brain.  

The League and the NFLPA established the 88 Plan which provides $100,000-a-year for nursing home care and up to $88,000 annually for adult day care for players that have been diagnosed with dementia, Alzheimer’s Disease or ALS.  In the new CBA, those amounts increase to $130,000 and $118,000 in 2016.

The League and the NFLPA also agreed to take out the previous “causation” language in the Disability Plan with respect to Total and Permanent Disability.  A player no longer has to prove that his disability – brain injury or otherwise – was the result of NFL injuries.

The new CBA also created the Neuro-Cognitive Disability Benefit that will pay vested players no less than $3,000 a month for a diagnosed moderate cognitive impairment and no less than $1,500 a month for a diagnosed mild cognitive impairment.  Those payments will continue for 180 months (15 years) or until a player reaches the age of 55.  Beginning in 2013, the payments for those benefits will increase $500 a month for moderate cognitive impairment and $375 a month for mild cognitive impairment every other year.

A player receiving the moderate cognitive impairment benefit could potentially receive $540,000 over a 15 year period and a player receiving the mild cognitive impairment benefit could potentially receive $270,000 over a 15 year period.  

Here are a few more important eligibility requirements and items that retired players should know:

  • This benefit is only for players that have a credited season after 1994
  • A retired player cannot receive the Neuro-Cognitive benefit if they are currently receiving Line of Duty or Total and Permanent benefits under the Disability Plan or Pension Benefits under the Retirement Plan
  • A retired player does not have to show that his neuro-cognitive impairment arose from football
  • A player who becomes qualified for the neuro-cognitive benefit within 15 years of his last Credited Season and subsequently qualifies for “Inactive B” total and permanent disability will be entitled (until age 55) to an additional $20,000 above the $50,000 T&P benefit instead of the neuro-cognitive benefit.
  • A retired player must waive the right to sue the NFL

That last bullet point should raise some eyebrows, because it will prevent some players (if they receive the benefit) from joining concussion lawsuits or class action lawsuits related to concussions.

The actual language in the CBA states “The parties agree that the player’s right to receive benefits under this Article shall be contingent on the player’s agreement to and execution of the release and covenant not to sue referenced above.”

It also states that “The parties acknowledge and agree that the provision of the benefit under this Article shall not be construed as an admission or concession by the NFL Releasees or any of them that the NFL caused or causes, in whole or in part, the medical conditions covered by the benefit, or as an admission of liability or wrongdoing by the NFL Releasees or any of them, and the NFL Releasees expressly deny any such admission, concession, liability or wrongdoing.”     

I breifly spoke about this new benefit during the NFL Alumni press conference at the Super Bowl.  I specifically said that that the NFL was trying to reduce their liability by inserting the aforementioned language in the Neuro-Cognitive Disability Benefit. I also said that the NFL was doing this because concussion lawsuits could potentially bankrupt the NFL. I also mentioned that I would have liked to see the NFL provide the Neuro-Cognitive Benefit to ALL retired players. 

After the press conference, I was interviewed by J. Perez of Foxsports.com.  He did not include any of my statements about the Neuro-Cognitive Disability Benefit in his recent article, so it’s not too surprising that some people took my comments out of context, including John Hogan, a well respected disability attorney who has represented NFL players.  

Mr. Perez asked me if I was discouraging players from filing concussion lawsuits.  I told him no, that was not what I was implying when I said that concussion lawsuits could potentially bankrupt the NFL.  I also told him that I have encouraged players to do what is in their best interest – including joining concussion lawsuits. 

Unfortunately, none of the pre-1995 NFL players are eligible to apply for the Neuro-Cognitive Disability Benefit, so they have only three options; File a claim for NFL Disability – which is very difficult to win with regard to proving a brain injury; File for the 88 Plan and hope they can qualify, or take the NFL to court. 

Players eligible for the Neuro-Cognitive Disability Benefit will need to make an important decision about whether they should, or shouldn’t apply for the benefit.  If they receive it, it will prevent them from joining current or future concussion lawsuits against the NFL.

The things that will need to be considered and weighed before making that decision include:

  • How much could I potentially receive in a concussion lawsuit?
  • Is it more than what I would receive under the Neuro-Cognitive Disability Benefit? 
  • What are the chances that former players can win a concussion lawsuit or class action lawsuit against the NFL?
  • How long will it take for the case to be settled, decided and possibly appealed?

Former players need to know their options and rights under all NFL benefit plans and therefore the NFL Alumni Association will continue to provide retired players with all the information they need in order to make informed decisions.   

NFL Legacy Benefit leaves widows and beneficiaries on the sidelines

A November 11, 2011 letter from the NFL Commissioner stated that Current benefit payments to retirees and their beneficiaries/former family members will be increased to no less than $600 per month……”

It goes on to say that “In addition to the floor of $600 per month, the new Legacy Benefit will be added to your current monthly pension payment.”

Based on that wording, many people were under the impression that all widows and beneficiaries would receive survivor benefits under the new Legacy Fund.

Unfortunately, we have been informed that this is not the case.  

Widows and beneficiaries are not eligible for the Legacy Fund survivor benefits if their husband died before August 4, 2011.  The benefit is only available to the wives and beneficiaries of players that die after August 3, 2011. 

John Mackey showing his rings while Sylvia stands behind him…… and what he stood for!

John Mackey must be looking down from heaven and wondering WTF is going on.  He died on July 6, 2011 - just 28 days too soon for his wife, Sylvia Mackey to receive the Legacy survivor benefit.

Excluding the wives and children of players that died before August 4, 2012 is a travesty.

In a January 23. 2012 email to NFLPA ExecutiveDirector DeMaurice Smith, Sylvia said “Not one single person to whom I have spoken can give me any logical reason why this is right. Am I missing something here? Why can’t anyone come up with a logical answer.”  She went on to ask him “Who is going to go broke, suffer, or be deprived of anything if the RIGHT thing is done. I can see why years of service (vested) could be a reason, but the date of death of a Legend should not be a reason for elected benefits to be denied to their loved ones who suffered the agony of seeing them die before August 4, 2011.” 

Together, Sylvia and John Mackey pressured the NFL to investigate the connection between player concussions and the onset of dementia.  After the “88 Plan” became reality, Sylvia Mackey said, “I told John he has become the poster child for a solution to this problem. His greatness on the football field is always going to be his biggest legacy. But this is No. 2.” 

After his death, DeMaurice Smith said ” John Mackey has inspired me and will continue to inspire our players and define our institution. His unwavering loyalty to our mission and his exemplary courage will never be forgotten.”

Commissioner Goodell said, “John Mackey was one of the great leaders in NFL history, on and off the field. He was a Hall of Fame player who redefined his position. John was a courageous advocate for his fellow NFL players as head of the NFL Players Association.”

Words must be backed up by deeds…..and not only for the men that played the game, but for the wives and children that stood by them all the way.I thought this was called the Legacy Fund for a reason.I thought we were honoring and assisting the pre -1993 players that laid the foundations of the NFL.I thought all widows would be rewarded for the support they gave their husbands during and after their careers.

I thought the children and families that helped many of these players with the debilitating injuries they suffered during their pro football careers would also benefit from their Legacy.  

I thought wrong. 

It’s just my opinion, but I think the NFL and the NFL Players Association need to review their decision to deny this benefit to surviving widows and beneficiaries of players that died before August 4, 2011. None of the retired player advocates that sat in the meeting with Roger Goodell knew that this was in the “fine print” of the Legacy Benefit.

In reference to this issue, NFL Alumni Executive Director George Martin said “I am appalled and dismayed regarding the Legacy Fund survivors benefit omission.  Currently we are pursuing measures to address this gross inequity with full Board support. The Board is willing to make this one of our key cornerstone issues during this year’s 2012 engagement with both the League as well as the NFLPA.  I have asked Sylvia Mackey to join me on the podium during my Super Bowl press conference to emphasize the point.”

For the record, I’m not suggesting that the $620 Million in funding for the Legacy Benefit be further diluted to fund the cost of grandfathering in all of the widows and beneficiaries, but I am suggesting that they find additional funding to help them in some other way.  

The additional money could come from the 22 million – plus 5% annual increase ($250 million over 10 years) that the NFLPA has at its discretion for retired player benefits, but I would prefer to see it come from a new source of revenue.

It may be impossible at this point to build this survivor benefit into the existing Legacy Benefit, so the only other option would be a lump sum payment or some other form of payment that recognizes the contributions of the wives of these pioneer players.    

The NFLPA discretionary funding should go to whatever benefit, or benefits a majority of former players feel it should go to……. and it should be done in an open, transparent, democratic way that allows for the input of all former players. 

I just hope that when it’s all said and done, we haven’t forgotten the wives and children of the former players who laid the foundations of the NFL.

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