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Daryl Johnston joins fight for disabled NFLers, appeals to Goodell

Discussion in 'NFL Zone' started by ConcordCowboy, Aug 20, 2007.

  1. ConcordCowboy

    ConcordCowboy Mr. Buckeye

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    Johnston joins fight for disabled NFLers, appeals to Goodell

    http://sports.espn.go.com/nfl/news/story?id=2983557

    IRVING, Texas -- Daryl Johnston is one of the lucky ones. Despite breaking his neck opening holes for Emmitt Smith, he walks without a cane or a limp and is able to hold down a lucrative second career in broadcasting.

    Yet Johnston sympathizes with broken-down former players who need help with medical bills and aren't getting it. His own experience with the system was eye-opening.

    So the former Dallas Cowboys star and current Fox NFL analyst jumped into the ongoing battle over disability payments on Monday, albeit with a twist. Rather than continuing the name-calling that has overshadowed many of the issues, Johnston went with a new tactic by making a plea to commissioner Roger Goodell.

    "The system is broke and it needs to be fixed. That's the issue," Johnston said. "I think we have the guy as commissioner to get this fixed."

    Johnston spoke out at a news conference organized by Gridiron Greats, a nonprofit organization started by Jerry Kramer and fronted by Mike Ditka, Gale Sayers and others to help down-and-out former NFL players. Fourth & Goal is another group waging a similar campaign.

    They've gotten the attention of Congress and drawn notice from the league office and from their real target, the NFL Players Association.

    Lately, though, there's been more anger than progress, from face-to-face shouting matches to NFL Players Association boss Gene Upshaw threatening to break the neck of Gridiron Greats board member Joe DeLamielleure.

    "We've got to get these guys together and stop the bickering, stop the arguing and start moving forward in a positive direction," Johnston said. "Because Gridiron Greats and Fourth & Goal are simply Band-Aids to hold this system together until it gets corrected."

    The biggest problem facing the ex-players is a lack of leverage. Because they are represented by a union whose primary concern is current players, all the exes can do is what Johnston did Monday _ appeal for public sympathy. They're hoping enough of an outcry will push everyone to "do the right thing," which happens to be the Gridiron Greats' motto.

    It's also the crux of their plan to have Goodell shake things up.

    The commissioner has often said his father, Charles Goodell, did exactly that in September 1969 when he put his seat in the U.S. Senate on the line by speaking out against the Vietnam War. The move indeed cost Goodell his spot in Washington, but his son proudly keeps a reminder framed on his office wall. The commissioner also has shown a commitment to cleaning up the league's image with his tough line against Michael Vick, Adam "Pacman" Jones and other violators of the league's personal conduct policy.

    "We've got a commissioner who, to me, looks like he wants to do what's right. All you have to do is skim the surface of this topic and you know what's right," Johnston said. "If Roger Goodell is who I think he is, his power trumps the NFLPA in this situation."

    NFL spokesman Greg Aiello noted Monday the commissioner already has been involved. He spoke about it just last week during a visit to Lions camp, and last month the league and the union launched a program that includes a $7 million medical fund.

    "I'm very sensitive to retired players that are facing medical issues," Goodell said. "They helped us build this game. They're important and we are working on a number of programs to be responsive to that. ... I've met with a number of former players and will be meeting again with a number of former players to try and understand the issues better and try to create some solutions."

    Until then, the players will continue telling their story through heart-wrenching first-person accounts.

    An example Monday was Brian DeMarco, who needed help from Johnston and Conrad Dobler just to stand and walk a few feet to a podium.

    DeMarco's back is held together by a titanium rod screwed into his hips. He has rebuilt knees and a painful shoulder. He's been homeless several times and spent several months living in a storage facility.

    He's also only 35 and was in the league as recently as 1999. He's thought about killing himself just so his wife and kids could have his death benefit.

    Then there's Dave Pear, a nose tackle who was the first Pro Bowler for Tampa Bay and who played for Oakland in the 1981 Super Bowl. He's had four disks fused, has four screws in his back that need to be replaced and needs both hips replaced. He takes about 25 pills a day and draws disability through Social Security.

    With tears dripping down his cheeks, he described the agony he's put his family through.

    "My wife has to carry a big load," he said. "It's not fair."

    Johnston was a bruising fullback who helped the Cowboys win three Super Bowls in the early 1990s. A crack in his neck was fused, then he returned and hurt his neck again. He retired at the urging of his doctor, but was denied disability status because NFL doctors said he could still work.

    Thanks to his job at Fox, he had insurance to cover a back operation two years ago.

    "If you don't have insurance ... it depletes your finances regardless of how much you had when you retired," he said.

    Johnston noted that if the union was doing as much as it says, why doesn't it hold news conferences to counter ones like this.

    "Where is the positive spin?" Johnston said. "It doesn't exist."


    Copyright 2007 by The Associated Press
  2. AbeBeta

    AbeBeta Well-Known Member

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    Until I see some current players willing to give the kind of money it will take to pay for this coverage (like 15% of each active player's paycheck) then it is all just talk.

    Covering ex-players is a nice story but it is WAY too expensive to be handled without a major outlay of cash.
  3. Scotman

    Scotman Member

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    I think I disagree with you this time. I think the NFL, the owners and the NFLPA all need to fix this. When these guys can't get insurance or afford insurance to cover medical expenses, the system needs to change. Keep in mind that a lot of these guys played at a time when they were not getting rich. Even if they retired with a few hundred thousand dollars, which would be a huge amount considering what many of them made, it could be gone in a single weekend if things go poorly.

    I also blame the agents. They ought to be negotiating for long-term comprehensive health insurance as part of their players contracts.
  4. FuzzyLumpkins

    FuzzyLumpkins The Boognish

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    They should just make it so that if you plaed in the league for more than 4 years or something like that you get to vote on union representatives. That would fix this issue very quickly.
  5. Scotman

    Scotman Member

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    Not really a bad idea if you as me. Or something like that. Some partial vote. Something to give them a voice.
  6. AbeBeta

    AbeBeta Well-Known Member

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    Sure -- but folks need to understand the incredible costs here -- these guys are nearly uninsurable - if you are talking pensions on top of that then current players would have far less cash.

    The owners had to have their arms twisted to give as much cash to players as they did in the last deal - you aren't going to get them jumping into line to pay money out to player who NO LONGER EARN THEM A RED CENT.
  7. Scotman

    Scotman Member

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    I can't argue with any of that. I see your point. I have no idea what the solution is, but they need to find one.

    All that said, my mom doesn't have insurance either and never made more than about 12 thousand a year. She wore her legs out and broke her back (literally) waiting tables and no one is clamoring to get her decent medical care.
  8. burmafrd

    burmafrd Well-Known Member

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    The NFL needs to go to one of the major insurance companys and make a deal. We give you lots of publicity in return for insuring our former players. It can be done and SHOULD be done. Sure the players and owners would have to kick in but not as much as some think now.
  9. superpunk

    superpunk Benched

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    I don't understand what this means, or what Johnston thinks Goodell can do. The players association and the owners would have to agree on a specific amount to contribute to a fund, and then agree on how to administer it. Goodell can try to mediate and push for more money, but I would think that's about it.

    And burmafrd - that is actually a heck of an idea, I think. Free enormous publicity in exchange for medical coverage for retirees? The initial announcement by itself would be golden and a huge amount of public goodwill would go out to the insurance company.

    Then....there might not be so much goodwill when that insurance company raises it's rates on every Tom, Dick and Harry who need medical coverage across the nation because they're covering thousands of NFL retirees pro bono.
  10. AbeBeta

    AbeBeta Well-Known Member

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    What you describe is a major societal problem - the cure shouldn't be limited for former NFL players
  11. AbeBeta

    AbeBeta Well-Known Member

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    and Bingo was his name-o

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