Troy Aikman told us he visited a brain health center in Dallas recently and finally got the test results back this week.
“Everything is great,” the 46-year-old said Wednesday. “It’s just an affirmation for me as far as how I feel.”
Getting his head around anything reaffirming as it relates to the latest NFL concussion discussion is another matter.
Is there brainwashing going on with commissioner Roger Goodell, who seems irked with those voicing dissatisfaction over a $765 million out-of-court settlement ruled on last week, an attempt to help more than 20,000 eligible former players and their families who’ve been dealing with quality of life, and death, issues for too long now? With the billions of dollars the league makes in TV right fees and other seemingly endless streams of income, did the NFL truly put in enough resources to resolve this issue?
Then there are the players still alive who may be able to benefit from the decision – starting with the 4,500 who began filing suits against the NFL in July of 2011 in L.A. Superior Court because of their ongoing battles with symptoms of dementia, depression and other dreadful diseases of the mind. They have more trouble understanding why the league will accept no liability for the working conditions created, and why were they kept in the dark about important medical research commissioned over the last few decades.
This storyline will continue to pulsate underneath all the fanfare and fireworks associated with the start of another NFL TV season, launched by tonight’s Baltimore-Denver contest (5:30 p.m., Channel 4).
Depending on how deep they want to get with it, the conversation can stay alive with former players who may have suffered their own physical misfortunes yet continue to keep a high profile as TV analysts, like Aikman for one, and Fox NFL studio host Terry Bradshaw, who has had well documented bouts with depression.
Some may worry about walking a fine line if they attack an entity that helps keeps them gainfully employed these days. Others stay true to telling it as they see it.
Again, like Aikman.
The UCLA quarterback who went onto a Hall of Fame career with the Dallas Cowboys retired after 12 seasons in 2000 after having 10 documented concussions — most likely, far more than that. After taking a knee to the head and leaving the NFC title game victory over San Francisco in 1993, Aikman famously said following the Cowboy’s Super Bowl XXVIII victory that he didn’t remember anything about the championship game, let alone playing in it.
Aikman, who has said back problems rather than migraine headaches were more related to why he retired, pointed out this week that he was not one of the plaintiffs suing the league. But he called the settlement “another win for the NFL . . . that’s a lot of money (paid out), but relatively speaking, in terms of what could have been paid, it’s not that much.
“There are guy who will be able to benefit, and some money will be put into research. (But) the one thing I’m disappointed about is that the NFL didn’t have to acknowledge what they knew and when they knew it (concerning brain injury research). It’s not about tarnishing the NFL, but I think full disclosure would have been the best way to go.”
CBS’ Boomer Esiason, who suffered such a severe concussion while playing quarterback for the New York Jets in 1995 that he was one of the first to undergo an extensive concussion study during the season while unable to play, said after 14 seasons in the league he’s “grateful” for the 4,500 players who went forth with the lawsuit and “I may fall under this fund if I need it.”
The “NFL Today” studio commentator, “Monday Night Football” radio analyst and New York sports talk show host pinpoints the suicide of former San Diego Chargers and USC great Junior Seau, suffering from chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE) at the time of his death in May, 2012, as what “pushed this over to get this settlement, and I’m glad we have some acknowledgement from the NFL.
“But as I’ve said on my radio show, if you want to hold the NFL owners accountable, you have to hold the players union accountable as well, because they didn’t do nearly enough for the longtime health benefits of the players, something I’ve very disappointed about.”
Fox NFL game analyst John Lynch, the former Tampa Bay and Denver cornerback who took his share of helmet hits in 15 seasons, says he keeps in contact in L.A. these days with Scott Fujita, the former NFL linebacker out of Rio Mesa High in Oxnard who voices his concerns now on the new Fox Sports 1 “Fox Football Daily.”
“The notion is that we’re all done now and we can move on isn’t the reality,” said Lynch. “We see more lawsuits coming, and probably more to come after that. The positive is that we can move forward as a game, but maybe that’s not the case. We’ll wait and see how that goes.”
Fujita, who wrote a piece last week for the New York Times about how “oddly conflicted” he was concerning the NFL concussion settlement, is one of many several vocal ex-players speaking out about the brain injury issue in a new independent documentary called “The United States of Football.”
Written and directed by Sean Pamphilon, a former ESPN producer who video taped meetings and then released much of the evidence against assistant coach Gregg Williams used at the crux of the 2012 New Orleans Saints “Bountygate” case, the movie continues to run at various theaters in Southern California this weekend during its nationwide release.
Pamphilon also has input in the film as well from Bob Costas, the ESPN “NFL Countdown” crew of Cris Carter, Keyshawn Johnson, Mike Ditka and Tom Jackson, and journalists Mike Silver and Frank Deford.
Pamphilon wonders that as ex-players like Aikman, Esiason and Bradshaw continue to entertain the masses as functional broadcasters, viewers will accept them as more of an example of how former concussed athletes function in today’s world, a norm rather than as an exception.
“I remember seeing Bradshaw on Jay Leno’s show once, telling he had six concussions during his career – but that was really six times when he was knocked out of a game because of a head injury, so there had to be far many more head hits during his career that go beyond the six,” said Pamphilon. “For 20 years, Junior Seau was never listed on an NFL injury report as being unable to play because of a concussion.
“I think what will really hit home someday – and I don’t wish this on anyone – is when someone like Bradshaw gets to a point where he’ll be unable to perform as that lovable, nutty uncle that we all have. That would register. That would be a big deal.”
When a video circulated of the Fox NFL sideline reporter getting hit in the head with a football during an exhibition game in New York in mid-August, it likely drew some laughs. Even she tried to laugh it off during the broadcast.
That’s until it was revealed Oliver was diagnosed with suffering a concussion.
She told the New York Daily News that she slept “for hours on end” and her head “was pounding . . . I really could not take light. The sun was completely my enemy. My blinds were drawn. I was miserable.”
And she’ll be on the sidelines for the Green Bay-San Francisco opener on Sunday, barring any strange symptoms.
“Players don’t want to be reminded about their concussions,” she told the paper. “They don’t want to be known as the guy who went down with one. They downplay it.
“Then it happens to me and I start wondering how these guys go back to being hit, taking all that punishment, a week or two later.
“When I’m back on the sidelines, I’ll do what I always do: Stay a bit behind the line of scrimmage. And keep my head on a swivel.”
And maybe wear a helmet? Naw, wouldn’t look good on TV.