Concussion settlement: A victory for players or ‘PR win’ for the NFL?

Former Chiefs and New York Giants safety Mark Collins, one of the more than 4,500 former pro football players who were plaintiffs in a concussion lawsuit against the NFL, was pleased with a $765 million tentative settlement announced Thursday.

But Jayice Pearson, another former Chiefs cornerback and plaintiff, called it a “PR win” for the NFL.

“I think it’s great,” Collins said. “I think it’s great for the players. I’m all for it. I think it’s fantastic. I just hope it brings awareness to some of the players in need because of brain trauma. I think it’s good.

“I wish it was more for those guys who really, really, really, really need it.”

Pearson’s initial reaction was not so positive.

“They allocated $765 million to the cause,” Pearson said, “when in actuality it’s being paid out over 20 years and it only benefits a few, it doesn’t benefit the masses.”

Under the settlement, individual awards would be capped at $5 million for players diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease; $4 million for those diagnosed after their deaths with a brain condition called chronic traumatic encephalopathy; and $3 million for players with dementia, said Christopher Seeger, lead attorney for the plantiffs.

“Five million is a lot of money,” Collins said, “but it doesn’t replace your brain. Hopefully those guys can use it and be better off.”

While Pearson appreciates the help the settlement will provide for those with catastrophic injuries or illnesses, he thought it should have gone further in providing care and health insurance for most players who cannot get post-career insurance because of pre-existing conditions.

“Why not allocate some of that money to a medical, health-insurance policy so you can get medication so you don’t get to these severe cases,” Pearson said. “That’s the problem most players have where’s the prevention?

“If you have all this money $765 million how much does it really cost to provide a group, major medical policy, and players can get treatment so they can (delay) the effects of Alzheimer’s or dementia right now, looking at this proposal, you have to already be there to benefit from it.”

Pearson, 50, said he is unable to obtain a major medical policy because of a pre-existing condition.

“If you don’t have it through your work or your spouse, what do you do?” Pearson said. “I’m not saying players should get money or any of that, but I’m flabbergasted how they can allocate all this money for all these other things but overlook health insurance.

“It does not take that much money for a major corporation like the NFL with thousands and thousands of people to provide a group policy. The players can buy into the group policy and pay every month. Players would love that, because now I can go to the doctor if I’m having problems with headaches, I can go and get help before it gets to full-blown CTE and I’m thinking of killing myself or full-blown dementia that you have to have to qualify for some of these funds.”

While the players not in catastrophic condition will not receive financial benefits or insurance, former players will be eligible for a medical screening and receive baseline tests that will be followed up over a number of years, and if they become more debilitated, they — or their families — would receive compensation.

“It’s not about what I get,” Collins said. “I wish we can get more research done and help those guys, not just who played in the past, but the guys who are playing now. This is a very serious thing.”