Everyone's a Winner in NFL Concussion Settlement, Except ...

Mike Freeman@@mikefreemanNFLNFL National Lead WriterAugust 29, 2013

The NFL and former players have agreed to settle concussion-related lawsuits filed by thousands of plaintiffs. It's a monumental event. The league settles, the player plaintiffs get paid, everyone's a winner.


The fans are winners. They get football as we see it now. Very little about the sport will change. They get their violence, fantasy and everything else we all love about the sport.

The NFL is a winner. It pays out $765 million. A lot of money, to be sure, but over the course of time, a pittance to a league that bathes in cash. Franchises are worth billions. The TV deals football has with various networks cause for a never-ending rainbow of gold. ESPN alone pays almost $2 billion a year for the rights to Monday Night Football. Two bil'.

Half of the $765 million settlement will be paid over three years, and the remaining over 17 years. That adds up to about $23 million per team paid out over two decades. Two. Decades. For the first three years, each team will pay only $3.9 million a year. That's chump change in this league.

In fact, if this were a game (and I know it isn't), the NFL would have beaten the players, 50-0. The NFL eradicated an existential threat that had kept owners awake at night for years.

The owners won. The league won. The fans won. Everyone was a winner, right?

Well, not everyone.

The players who had their minds scrambled. The players who can't at times remember who they are. The players who have a brain disease that could one day cause them to do harm to themselves or loved ones. They didn't win. It's too late for them. Money can't fix them.

Junior Seau is dead because of a self-inflicted gunshot wound. Doctors determined a brain disease "associated with repeated blows to the head" had eaten away at some of the control mechanisms that governed his sensibilities.

Other players have taken their own lives, and the consensus is that chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE) is the underlying cause. NFL officials have said this isn't true; some medical experts say it is.

Former player Conrad Dobler was asked about Thursday's settlement by Bleacher Report's Michael Schottey. Dobler got emotional.

"That's all fine and dandy," Dobler said of the settlement. "That means one walk-on player for each team's salary.

"Does it make up for it? The general public would think, 'Oh, how gracious of them'… (I) probably spent more than that (on medical). Am I a good golfer? I can't remember my score from the tee to the green. So I can't remember that I'm not hitting my handicap."

Dobler is similar to many ex-players in that he believes the NFL knew more about concussions and the problems they caused than it's letting on. He's not alone. Hall of Famers like Eric Dickerson and Art Monk have sued the league. 

This is always the response of fans to that statement: "Players knew football was dangerous." But how dangerous? Does one concussion cause permanent damage? Two? Five? Ten?

The lawsuit had a chance to possibly answer some of those questions. Science still has a chance to provide us with some definitive answers, but without the examination of a judge or jury, we may never get anything straightforward.


What did the NFL know and when did it know it?

And what exactly does football do to the body?

After decades of questions and broken minds, the NFL doesn't have to admit anything. Nothing. Not even a "my bad."

What happens now? Science takes over. The legal part of this is basically done. The people who will find the answers are the men and women in lab coats. Doctors are learning more seemingly every year about the repercussions of football on the brain. There is almost a space race taking place on the frontier of the human mind.

Meanwhile, football goes on. The beatings go on. The head-knocking, despite the NFL's attempt to make the game safer, continues.

The league settles. The player plaintiffs get paid. Everyone was a winner. Right?