Four years later, the situation for players is improving, but still far behind the curve on a league that is swimming in cash like it never has before. The players aren't seeking reparations. All they want is the union medical benefits collectively bargained for by many other labor unions around the country.
If someone worked in a steel plant or an automobile manufacturer and developed a disability as result of that occupation, they could turn to their union to get the benefits they deserve. Former NFL players not only found a chilly reception from their own union, but a general practice of denying disability claims from the league. Until the players stood up, both in court and before Congress, letting the masses know the toll playing in the NFL took on their bodies, the routine practice of denying disability claims by the NFL was what Brent Boyd so eerily and eloquently said was a practice of "delay, deny and hope they die."
As the media throng converges in Indiana for the Super Bowl, former players, including Vikings Hall of Famers Carl Eller and Paul Krause have joined the effort to get the word out on the problems NFL players from the recent and not-so-recent past are currently facing.
In the latest edition of "The Voice," a newsletter devoted to former NFL players, the ongoing plight of former players was highlighted.
Four years after Ditka, Eller and others made an impassioned plea to have their voices heard, a decision was rendered that will consolidate four class-action cases being brought against the NFL.
On Tuesday, the decision was made by the U.S. Judicial Panel of Multidistrict Litigation in Miami to transfer pending cases dealing with concussions to the Eastern District of Pennsylvania jurisdiction to be heard by Judge Anita Brody. The 106-player class-action suit headed up by Boyd was already pending in Judge Brody's court and, given the similarity in the cases and the contentions being made, it was determined that cases in New York and California would be consolidated with the Pennsylvania case.
With the decision of the multijurisdictional panel, Judge Brody will have six cases pending under her auspices, with as many as 13 related cases in other states and jurisdictions potentially being folded into the cases currently on her docket.
Four years ago, many were skeptical about the charges being brought against the NFL by former players – some actually dismissing the cases as "sour grapes" for former players not being part of the economic boom the NFL has experienced over the last decade with no end in sight. Four years later, the viewpoint has changed drastically.
For years, the NFL held the upper hand over the former players due to the financial wherewithal it had as opposed to the players paying individual small law firms to battle the Goliath New York lawyer factories the NFL could afford to retain. Too often, lawyers for the former players were buried by legal loopholes and technicalities the best minds in the business could locate and use to their advantage. However, the playing field has changed since Ditka, Eller and the rest made their plea for recognition.
Ever wonder why the NFL is currently going to such extremes to make sure players with concussions don't get back on the field until they are sufficiently healed? In its preparation to fight Boyd, Eller, Krause and others in court, its legal team sought out experts that could refute the claims made by former players. What they found was near-unanimity in the belief that the old-school NFL not only caused devastating injuries, but the "it's just a bruise" practice of getting high-profile players back on the field might have been enough impetus to make the league culpable for the life-altering injuries sustained by former players.
The ruling Tuesday won't be the end of the matter, but it could result in a massive settlement between the league and the former players to give many of them the care and assistance they deserve for paving the road for the current generation of NFL players. The result of the consolidation of cases could be an impressive eight-figure settlement that will be a nice bonus for those players who, as recently as four years ago, made news by hiding what Eller called the "dark secret" of the NFL.
It's about time.
John Holler has been writing about the Vikings for more than a decade for Viking Update. Follow Viking Update on Twitter and discuss this topic on our message boards. To become a subscriber to the Viking Update web site or magazine, click here.