NFL Retirees Demand Benefits That Are ‘Fair and Right’

By Tierney Smith | June 22, 2011 | 5:03pm EDT

Washington ( – A dozen retired NFL players have filed a lawsuit to make the NFL take responsibility for their football-related medical traumas and to demand better pensions and disability benefits from the league.

At a news conference in Washington on Monday, retired Minnesota Viking Hall of Famer Carl Eller explained that he filed the class-action lawsuit against the NFL in hopes of achieving benefits for his fellow retirees, many of whom played in the days before multi-million dollar contracts.

“We want to make provisions for them to have a normal life; a standard much higher than what these guys are enjoying today,” Eller said.

Fellow Hall of Famer Joe DeLamielleure blamed the players’ union for the plight of retirees, who he said have high medical costs and very little in

“We’ve never had a chance with the union. They’ve never represented us. They pad their own pockets with money through player’s ink and other issues, and then they act like we’re begging. We’ve earned a right to have a livable pension. I’m not saying make us rich, but damn it, I deserve more than $1,247.95 [per month],” said DeLamielleure, who played with the Buffalo Bills in the 1970s during its O.J. Simpson “glory years.” 

The retirees, who are weighing in on the negotiations between NFL owners and the player’s union, claim that their pensions are not enough, especially in light of their skyrocketing medical bills -- and say that they should qualify for disability instead of being dismissed because of various technicalities.

George Visger spoke of having nine brain surgeries stemming from head injuries, and said he has struggled with dementia and seizures ever since he played for the San Francisco 49ers during their 1981 Super Bowl championship season.

Holding up an x-ray of his dented brain he said, “They say a picture is worth a thousand words.  This is my brain. There shouldn’t be any holes in it.”

Visger explained that despite being declared 100 percent disabled by doctors, the NFL refuses to provide him with any aid.

Some former players, like Dave Pear, who played for the NFL from 1975 to 1980, spoke of costly repeated football-related injuries and surgeries.

“So far I’ve had 10 spine surgeries, I’ve had discs fused in my neck, three in my low back, I’ve got one artificial hip, I need another artificial hip, I need another neck surgery, I need another back surgery. Since I left football, my medical benefits have been over $600,000. That’s more than I made as a player.”

Eller and: “The League itself should take responsibility in preparing these players and taking decent care of these players once they’re done [playing]. That should be part of the industry.”

Greg Koch, who was a first round draft pick in 1969, said, “Broken bones, my tearing knee ligaments, I signed up for that.  If that’s what you want to say, I signed up for it.  I did.  But I did not sign up for early dementia, and I did not sign up for Parkinson’s, and if the NFL kept putting me out there when they knew they shouldn’t have, that is on them and that’s what I’m asking that they take care of.”

He added, “The average team in 1995 in the NFL cost $175 million, 15 years later the average team costs $1.02 billion...Don’t tell me there’s not a piece of that pie for the retirees.”

Former NFL player and attorney Shawn Stuckey warned the public that this issue affects them as well.

Speaking to the audience, Stuckey said, “When the NFL denies disability, and almost in every case they will deny disability, you are the guys who pay for it. Because [the retirees] then have to go into Medicare, Medicaid. Or they end up in the emergency room, because they can’t afford insurance based off of pre-existing disabilities.”

Koch spoke for all the retirees: “You will be hearing from us.  We will not let this go away. And these guys need to be taken care of.”

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