Other Concussions and Player Safety Issues

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Goodell letter reaffirms $30 million commitment to NIH
Posted by Mike Florio on May 26, 2016, 6:26 PM EDT
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The week began with a Congressional report accusing the NFL of rescinding $16 million from a $30 million gift to the National Institutes of Health due to the league’s disagreement with the NIH’s selection of a researcher to oversee testing aimed at detecting Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy in living patients. The week is ending with Commissioner Roger Goodell emphasizing to his constituents that the full $30 million gift remains in place.

“As discussed during our recent meeting, the NFL has a unique responsibility and opportunity to drive change and advance progress in the prevention and treatment of head injuries,” Goodell said in a letter to all owners and team presidents, a copy of which PFT has obtained. “That is our unwavering commitment to our players, former players, athletes at all levels, and society more broadly.”

Goodell explains in the letter that the commitment arises primarily from “continued and robust support of independent medical research,” including the $30 million NIH donation.

“I want to reaffirm in the strongest possible terms my comments to you during the league meeting and my public statements this week reaffirming the NFL’s commitment to the NIH of the $30 million in grant funding we pledged to accelerate scientific understanding of concussion and head injury,” Goodell wrote. “There was no consideration given to anything other than honoring that commitment in its entirety.”

Goodell then explained how the money is being distributed: (1)$12 million allocated through the NIH for two $6 million agreements dedicated to studies that define the long-term changes that occur in the brain after a head injury or multiple concussions; (2) $6 million to the Boston University School of Medicine and the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs for a study on CTE and post-traumatic neurodegeneration; (3) $6 million for Mount Sinai Hospital for a study on the neuropathology of CTE and Delayed Effects of TBI; and (4) six pilot projects totaling more than $2 million to provide support for the early stages of sports-related concussion projects.

Implicit in this explanation is the concession that the NFL did indeed rescind $16 million that had been earmarked for a study aimed at detecting CTE in living patients. The Congressional report claimed that the NFL removed that specific contribution over objections to the selection of Robert Stern to oversee the research.

While the league definitely deserves credit for the $30 million donation, the issue of the $16 million for a study that would detect CTE in living patients remains. Goodell has characterized any communications with the NIH as part of a normal back and forth. But what the league may regard as normal dialogue apparently was perceived by someone with the NIH and/or Congress as an abnormal attempt to steer away from a researcher whom the league apparently believes has an agenda against the NFL a critical study that could, if it shows widespread CTE in current players, seriously damage the league’s interests.

Regardless of whether the league had just cause to be concerned about Robert Stern presiding over the study, Congress and ESPN (which instigated the investigation with its reporting from last December) caught the league flat-footed on Monday, and the NFL’s efforts to close the gap since then have failed to wipe away the general belief that the league engaged in the kind of behavior chronicled in the film Concussion.
 

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Following the Buddy Ryan death I ended up stumbling across a news paper report from the start of last year that covered the poor health of the 1985 Chicago Bears. There was a HBO special called Real Sports that covered this aired around the same time (I'd love to track that down if anybody knows about it)

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Real Sports report reveals tragic aftermath of iconic 1985 Chicago Bears

The 1985 Chicago Bears changed football during and after their Super Bowl XX victory, but not nearly as much as football changed them, reports Bryant Gumbel in HBO’s newest episode of Real Sports.

Once the rulers of the city, Gumbel says, the 1985 Bears have become the game’s “ultimate cautionary tale.”

Many of them have bodies and minds broken beyond repair.

Defensive lineman William Perry, famously nicknamed “Refrigerator” at 6-2 and 335 pounds, is barely able to walk today.

Tackle Keith Van Horne unknowingly played on a broken leg for years and is now in constant pain. Linebacker Wilbur Marshall is on full disability.

According to the HBO report, nearly half of the 1985 Bears are suing the NFL and contending that the game destroyed their bodies, minds or both.

Quarterback Jim McMahon, who is suffering from early-onset dementia and is shown doing jigsaw puzzles to keep his brain stimulated, said he’s considered suicide.

“When I first heard about these guys killing themselves, I couldn’t figure out how they could do that,” McMahon told Gumbel in the report that aired Tuesday night on HBO. “But I was having those thoughts myself. Feelings of inadequacy. … Once the pain starts getting that bad, you figure you’ll take the only way out. If I would’ve had a gun, I probably wouldn’t be here.”

Gumbel also interviewed Tregg Duerson, the oldest son of former Bears safety Dave Duerson, who committed suicide at age 50.

“In the pages of the letter he was describing that he was suffering from depression,” Tregg Duerson says. “He was suffering from short-term memory loss. He had difficulty spelling. He had a pain in the back of his head that he described. And on the last page of the note there was the message to ‘please see that my brain is given to the NFL Brain Bank.’”

Duerson shot himself in the chest to keep his brain intact.

The Bears were fed a steady diet of painkillers and drugs to mask the pain of their playing days.

McMahon says his injuries never healed properly and the drugs allowed him to stay on the field.

“There was always just bowls of pills sitting out,” McMahon says. “You know, black ones, white ones, green ones, red ones, you know. I was on painkillers my last 11 years in the league. I was eating 100 percs a month just to function.”

Former Bears coach Mike Ditka has lobbied on behalf of his players. He wants the league to give something back to the players who set the foundation for what the NFL has become.

“Implement something for the former players who played this game and made this game what it is today,” Ditka says. “That’s what I would say to the commissioner, to the owners. You got an obligation and responsibility to those guys because you wouldn’t have a damn job right now if it wasn’t for those guys.”

Ditka goes on to say if he had an 8-year-old kid he would not let him play football.

“That’s sad,” he says. “I wouldn’t. And my whole life was football. I think the risk is worse than the reward. I really do.”

The Real Sports episode also included interviews with Richard Dent and Steve McMichael, who said he hasn’t suffered brain damage yet – but plans to seek restitution if he ever does.

Source
 

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A couple of things

William Perry is 150 pounds overweight and not looking after himself , physically or financially. Not sure you can place ALL of it on his football times. Most of his health issues seem to be weight related.

The pill culture was not exclusive to the Bears

I'm not saying playing as hard as they did hasn't impacted on their lives somehow but they weren't and aren't on their own
 

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A couple of things

William Perry is 150 pounds overweight and not looking after himself , physically or financially. Not sure you can place ALL of it on his football times. Most of his health issues seem to be weight related.

The pill culture was not exclusive to the Bears

I'm not saying playing as hard as they did hasn't impacted on their lives somehow but they weren't and aren't on their own
For sure, I've no doubt a LOT of this kind of crap was going on undetected and unreported during that time.
 

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Donald Trump during his campaign trail objected to the NFL's soft concussion protocol. Saying it ought to be changed, allowing players back into games etc. Also objected to the penalties for head-on-head collisions. Trump wants to see football played like it used to be. Do you think he'll be able to affect change?
 

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The concussion might've softened him such that hearing about his knee injury made him cry, when otherwise he would suck it in and show manliness.
Panthers head coach Ron Rivera said Kuechly is in the league's concussion protocol, per Joe Person of the Charlotte Observer. Rivera also indicated Kuechly did not sustain any injuries aside from the concussion, according to Person.

Did they evaluate Ron Rivera for a concussion?
 

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Luke Kuechly is done, Nick Roach-style....

Roach signed with the Oakland Raiders on March 15, 2013. Roach played in all 16 games and lead the team in tackles during the 2013 season.
Due to lingering concussion symptoms that involve issues with his balance and vision, the Raiders released him on March 6, 2015.
 

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Buffalo researchers find brains of retired Bills, Sabres players are healthy
Posted by Michael David Smith on August 9, 2018, 5:28 AM EDT

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New research from the University at Buffalo is calling into question the idea that contact sports lead to neurological damage that affects athletes later in life.

The research on retired players from the NFL’s Bills and NHL’s Sabres found that the former players were actually doing well mentally later in life, contrary to expectations.

“News coverage has given the public the impression that CTE is inevitable among professional contact sport athletes,” the researchers wrote, via the Buffalo News. “The results of our comprehensive investigation . . . do not support this notion.”

The former Bills and Sabres players were compared to a control group of similarly aged athletes from non-contact sports, such as swimmers, runners and triathletes. The researchers found that the non-contact athletes were in better physical condition than the retired football and hockey players, many of whom had suffered orthopedic injuries, but that there were no differences in brain function.

“Our noncontact sport control group turned out to be better educated and in much better health than our contact sport athletes,” the researchers wrote, “but we discovered they were not substantially different in most aspects of functioning, except physical activity.”

Barry S. Willer, a professor of psychiatry who was lead investigator on the study, concluded that CTE is “much more rare than we thought.”
 

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NFL settles Junior Seau wrongful death lawsuit
Posted by Mike Florio on October 6, 2018, 8:19 AM EDT

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Although most former players will have any benefits arising from head injuries while playing professional football processed and resolved by broader concussion settlement, players had the right to opt out and pursue their own claims against the league. That’s what the family of Hall of Fame linebacker Junior Seau did.

On Friday, the NFL settled the Seau suit.

Via Teri Figueroa of the San Diego Union-Tribune, the two sides reached a confidential agreement to resolve the litigation arising from Seau’s May 2012 suicide. Seau’s brain showed evidence of Chronic Traumatic Encephelopathy, and his family blamed Seau’s suicide on years of concussions suffered while playing pro football.

A first-round pick in 1990, Seau played through 2009. That’s the year the NFL reluctantly admitted (after years of stonewalling) that concussions can cause long-term health issues. As a linebacker, Seau was routinely delivering and absorbing hits with and to his helmet.

Attorney Steve Strauss explained that the amount of the settlement could not be discussed, but that Seau’s clients (his four children and his estate) are “pleased” by the outcome.

According to Figueroa, Seau’s estate would have received $4 million under the formula established by the concussion settlement. Presumably, Seau’s estate got more than that.

Confidentiality provisions are very common in civil settlements negotiated between private parties in litigation. The side paying the money strongly prefers to avoid letting the world know the amount of the payment, in order to avoid both negative P.R. consequences and an open invitation for others to pursue a similar recovery from a company that is perceived as being willing to buy its way out of lawsuits. That necessarily gives the claim even more value, and potentially boosted the Seau estate’s recovery.

Also potentially boosting the Seau estate’s recovery was the league’s clear desire to avoid opening its files to careful inspection regarding what the league knew and when the league knew it regarding concussions. If that information was ever made available for widespread public inspection and media scrutiny, NFL football could quickly be relegated to third-class status in the landscape of American pro sports.
 

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Leading medical journal calls on doctors to dial back dire warnings about CTE

Posted by Mike Florio on February 16, 2019, 12:15 PM EST



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The discovery of Chronic Traumatic Encephelopathy eventually led to the creation of various media narratives about what it is, how it’s developed, and what it means. In many respects, those characterizations gave ignored that, as a matter of medical science, not nearly enough was and is known about how it develops, what it means to have it, and the short- and long-term consequences and complications associated with it.

The effort by some in the media to put the CTE cart before the horse has caused plenty of players to worry unreasonably about whether their brains have become ticking time bombs, destined to eventually implode into one of various serious conditions. Now, one of the leading peer-reviewed medical journals is calling on doctors and others to dial back the presumptions that have been perpetuated regarding CTE.

“Contrary to common perception, the clinical syndrome of CTE has not yet been fully defined, its prevalence is unknown, and the neuropathological diagnostic criteria are no more than preliminary,” declares The Lancet. “We have an incomplete understanding of the extent or distribution of pathology required to produce neurological dysfunction or to distinguish diseased from healthy tissue, with the neuropathological changes of CTE reported in apparently asymptomatic individuals. Although commonly quoted, no consensus agreement has been reached on staging the severity of CTE pathology. A single focus of the pathology implicated in CTE is not yet sufficient evidence to define disease.”

In other words, doctors still don’t know nearly enough about getting it, having it, and living with it. And some doctors and researchers all too often fail to acknowledge this fact.

“Unfortunately, the uncertainties around the clinical syndrome and the pathological definition of CTE are not acknowledged adequately in much of the current research literature or related media reporting, which at times has resembled science by press conference,” the article explains. “Too often an inaccurate impression is portrayed that CTE is clinically defined, its prevalence is high, and pathology evaluation is a simple positive or negative decision. This distorted reporting on CTE might have dire consequences. Specifically, individuals with potentially treatable conditions, such as depression or post-traumatic stress disorder, might make decisions on their future on the basis of a misplaced belief that their symptoms inevitably herald an untreatable, degenerative brain disease culminating in dementia.”

It’s no surprise that former players jump to CTE conclusions, when so much of the comments from certain doctors and researchers focus not on the lack of medical evidence to understand it but on the dire warnings and predictions made by persons who, coincidentally or not, have seen a sharp rise in their individual profiles and profitability based on the taking of prematurely aggressive positions about the dangers of CTE.

“We propose that the principle of, first, to do no harm, is used when communicating on CTE, whatever the platform,” the article concludes. “In particular, the many remaining uncertainties should always be acknowledged. Otherwise, the risk of doing harm is very real.”

This is a message to all doctors, reminding them of the fundamental underpinnings of the Hippocratic oath. Primum non nocere. First, do no harm.
Amen to that. Too many former players experience anxiety, stress, and depression not as a result of having CTE but simply from the fear associated with the condition, fear sparked by statements made publicly and privately by doctors. That fear that causes many former players to constantly wonder whether today is the day that they will begin an inevitable descent into the gradual loss of cognitive functioning, culminating in Alzheimer’s, ALS, dementia, and/or death. The article in The Lancet represents a clear and unambiguous message to all current and former athletes who worry about the long-term effects of head trauma: Do not assume the worst, because much still has to be learned about the condition.

Some will scoff at this explanation, attributing it to a football writer who has a vested interest in the ongoing existence of professional football. Some of those who will scoff, however, have a vested interest in the death of professional football, and they seem to be all too willing to ignore plain and obvious facts — such as those articulated by The Lancet — in the hopes of either bringing about the death of professional football or witnessing it in their lifetimes.
 

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Gronk’s retirement becomes a flashpoint in CTE debate

Posted by Mike Florio on March 30, 2019, 9:46 AM EDT



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Less than a week after Patriots tight end Rob Gronkowski retired, rank speculation regarding the reasons for his departure from the game has become the latest skirmish in the fight between doctors who jump to conclusions regarding brain trauma and those who have preached patience.
Dr. Ann McKee, one of the leading CTE researchers, has pounced on Gronk’s retirement as proof that concerns regarding Chronic Traumatic Encephelopathy influence decisions regarding the duration of football careers.

I was relieved,” Dr, McKee told BU Today regarding her reaction to the news. “Reading between the lines about Rob Gronkowski, he’s had big hits. He’s read the headlines. He has said playing football abuses the body and abuses the brain.”

That quote from Dr. McKee prompted a response on Twitter from Dr. Peter Cummings, a forensic pathologist and a neuropathologist who like Dr. McKee works at Boston University and who points out that his colleague is taking liberties with Gronk’s quote, and that he never said anything about football abusing the brain: “Abusing your body isn’t what your brain wants. When your body is abused, it can bring down your mood.”

Here’s the full quote from Gronkowski, uttered days before what would be his final game: “The season’s a grind. It’s up and down. I’m not going to lie and sit here and say every week is the best. Not at all. You go up, you go down. You can take some serious hits. To tell you the truth, just try and imagine getting hit all the time and trying to be where you want to be every day in life. It’s tough, it’s difficult. To take hits to the thigh, take hits to your head. Abusing your body isn’t what your brain wants. When your body is abused, it can bring down your mood. You’ve got to be able to deal with that, too, throughout the season. You gotta be able to deal with that in the games.”

“I know he’s a goofball, but he’s intelligent,” Dr. McKee said of Gronkowski. “I think he does recognize that the brain is a very precious part of you, and you don’t get a second chance with it.”

Regardless of whether CTE fears were a factor in Gronk’s decision-making process (I’d heard over a year ago that family members were pushing Gronk to quit due to concussion concerns, possibly fear stoked by the likes of Dr. McKee), Dr. McKee believes that players have begun to consider CTE when deciding whether to call it quits.

“With the active players, there was this imaginary curtain — we’re not going to go there, not going to look at what might happen,” McKee said. “But now I do see players talking about CTE; they mention protecting their brain. And even if they don’t discuss CTE amongst themselves, they definitely are aware of it. They’re also getting more information from family members. CTE isn’t just a personal disease, it affects the whole family. Players talk to their wives, girlfriends, parents, and their level of concern is higher than it used to be.”

Of course it is, because of people like Ann McKee. That was precisely the point of last month’s article in The Lancet, one of the leading peer-reviewed medical journals.

“Unfortunately, the uncertainties around the clinical syndrome and the pathological definition of CTE are not acknowledged adequately in much of the current research literature or related media reporting, which at times has resembled science by press conference,” the article explained. “Too often an inaccurate impression is portrayed that CTE is clinically defined, its prevalence is high, and pathology evaluation is a simple positive or negative decision. This distorted reporting on CTE might have dire consequences. Specifically, individuals with potentially treatable conditions, such as depression or post-traumatic stress disorder, might make decisions on their future on the basis of a misplaced belief that their symptoms inevitably herald an untreatable, degenerative brain disease culminating in dementia.”

The message is clear: Doctors (including Dr. Ann McKee) still don’t know nearly enough about how people get CTE, what it means to have CTE, and what can happen to someone who has CTE. Vague, dire warnings about CTE cause unnecessary fear and confusion, with former players worried that they have a ticking time bomb in their brain and current players possibly walking away prematurely due to a subject that remains in the infant stage of its overall research and understanding.

The Lancet specifically warned that the “uncertainties” regarding CTE are not “acknowledged adequately,” and that some are engaged in “science by press conference.” For Dr. McKee, this time around it appears to be science by sit-down interview, with an effort to use Gronk’s retirement decision as the latest billboard for convincing more Chris Borlands to quit football long before they otherwise would, regardless of whether the actual science of CTE supports such decisions.
 

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Insurance carriers escalate their fight with NFL over concussion settlement

Posted by Mike Florio on May 6, 2019, 10:57 AM EDT



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It takes a lot to make the insurance industry seem sympathetic. The NFL potentially is in the process of doing that.
The league wants more than $1 billion from its insurance carriers in connection with the settlement of the class action arising from the claim that the NFL concealed for years the long-term risks of head trauma from its players. But the league apparently doesn’t want the insurance carriers to find out what the league knew and when the league knew it regarding the long-term risks of head trauma.
According to Daniel Kaplan of SportsBusiness Journal, the insurance companies have commenced the process of enforcing “long-standing subpoenas” for documents regarding head injuries from the NFL’s 32 teams. The NFL has attempted to block the effort with a motion for a temporary restraining order.
A court in Indiana already has ordered the Colts to comply (the Colts are appealing). The league’s motion to block the subpoenas included a copy of one served to the Bills, which via Kaplan seeks six categories of documents including correspondence related to NFL player safety committees, communications about the class-action settlement, and documents relating to the film Concussion, the League of Denial book, and ProCap, a padded helmet product.
The move comes amid a two-year fight over the limits of permissible “discovery” in the lawsuit. The league avoided surrendering sensitive information regarding its knowledge as to head trauma by settling the class action. Absent a settlement with the insurance companies, the league could eventually be required to submit to an effort to test whether the payments made to former players fall within the scope of the insurance coverage the NFL purchased.
Obviously, insurance companies prefer not to pay whenever and wherever they can legitimately refuse to do so. Their only asset is money, and the business is all about bringing in as much money as possible in premiums while paying out as little as possible in claims.
But the NFL in this case apparently wants the benefit of its insurance coverage without giving the insurance companies access to information that could be critical to determining whether or not coverage exists. Most insurance policies include a long list of coverage exclusions and other exceptions that prevent payment from being made; it’s only fair for the insurance companies to be able to determine whether, for example, the league’s knowledge of the potential risks arising from head trauma coupled with any meaningful effort to warn players and/or to enhance safety make coverage unavailable.
Of course, both sides understand these sensitivities. The circumstances suggest that the league has something to hide, and that the insurance companies hope to force the NFL to choose between opening the vault of information or accepting whatever offer the insurance companies are willing to make in order to make the case go away.
As a practical matter, the league won’t be inclined to blink until it has to. This latest battle is aimed at forcing the league to blink; the league will try in response to continue to delay for as long as possible the moment at which it must choose between accepting the best offer from the insurance companies or facing the reality that certain potentially unfortunate secrets regarding head trauma will end up being revealed to the insurance companies and possibly in turn to the world.
 

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Judge in concussion case dismisses three of the four lawyers for the plaintiffs
Posted by Mike Florio on May 25, 2019, 8:59 PM EDT

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The ever-contentious concussion settlement is going to become less contentious.
Via the Associated Press, Judge Anita Brody dismissed on Friday three of the four lawyers representing the class of former plaintiffs. Christopher Seeger will be the only lawyer authorized to speak for the full complement of former players moving forward.
The order, characterized as a “surprise” by the AP, sparked a sharp reaction from one of the lawyers who is now on the outside looking in.
Gene Locks, one of the lawyers dumped from the case, had recently argued against Judge Brody’s decision to place a geographic limit on the class members’ search for a doctor.
“This court has been told, many times, in motions and in [chambers], factual arguments from the NFL that have been exaggerated and intended to limit their obligations to the players,” Locks told the Associated Press. “At this point, [it] extinguishes any remaining hope that the individual interests of the class members will be adequately protected.”
Although more than $500 million in benefits have been paid with another $160 million in approved claims pending, the process has generated plenty of controversy and confusion. The league has agreed to an unlimited pool of funding for proven claims regarding covered conditions, extending 65 years beyond the settlement. The unlimited nature of the program, however, gives the league a real incentive to fight any and every claim, in an effort to contain the ultimate exposure.
 

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One of the problems of having lawyers running the league.....


what former player, on the comeback trail, would attend a tryout if they had to sign a league-wide waiver to do so.
 

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what former player, on the comeback trail, would attend a tryout if they had to sign a league-wide waiver to do so.
I can't read the article (paywall) but they've always had to sign an injury waiver to participate in an official work-out.

It was a "its not our fault if nobody signs you" waiver that was the sticking point in the Kaepernick situation (and depending on what you believe, was the entire point of the work-out from the NFL's perspective)
 

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a quote from the article....

Near the bottom of a memo the NFL Players Association sent to its players Thursday, the union told its members that one of the biggest outstanding issues in collective bargaining negotiations is a proposed liability waiver by the league.
The revelation of this proposal by the league comes after waivers became an explosive quagmire for the NFL, when the league’s proposed workout with Kaepernick fell apart at the last second because of his concerns over a liability waiver the league wanted him to sign.
Kaepernick and his team believed the waiver, which primarily addressed potential injury at the league-organized workout, would potentially prevent him from pursuing legal recourse against the league. The NFL denied that was the case and said it was simply designed to protect the league’s liability in case he got hurt during the proceedings.
The NFL sees the issue simply as an expansion of an existing provision in the current CBA in which players agree not to bring types of legal action if they take advantage of certain benefits, a person familiar with the league’s thinking said. The new language expands that existing provision in the context of new benefits, the person added.
Kaepernick, the former 49ers quarterback, settled a collusion grievance with the league last year and has gone unsigned for three years since the season he began protesting during the national anthem to call attention to social injustices and racial inequality. Those demonstrations spread and became a hot-button issue for the league—and now these waivers may, too.
Although players typically sign waivers before workouts, there is no provision in the current collective bargaining agreement that mandates one league-wide for all players. This type of waiver could have the potential to protect the league from broader claims of negligence and other future lawsuits. The league currently has a settlement with former players, valued as high as a billion dollars, over claims related to traumatic brain injuries.
 

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