NASHVILLE (May 22, 2007) -- The NFL and its related organizations have agreed to work together to support former players in need of medical care, NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell announced.
Commissioner Goodell informed NFL clubs at a league meeting in Nashville that the NFL, NFL Players Association, NFL Retired Players Association, NFL Alumni Association, NFL Charities and the Pro Football Hall of Fame will form the first-ever alliance to coordinate medical support services for former players in need of medical care.
"All of us in the NFL want to help former players that now find themselves in need of medical care through no fault of their own," said Commissioner Goodell. "Several NFL-related groups have been working independently over the years to provide medical assistance, but now we will work together to identify and help players more effectively in a common effort."
Harold Henderson, the NFL's executive vice president of labor relations, will serve as the lead executive in this new initiative.
"Everyone wants to do the right thing to help former players with medical needs," said Henderson. "We want to do it in a coordinated, structured fashion. There have been ongoing discussions with Gen Upshaw (executive director of the NFLPA), and I know he sees this as a high priority."
The NFL is exploring a wide range of new ideas to address the medical needs of its former players.
"We are seeking to determine how we can creatively approach the medical issues of former players and guarantee their access to high-quality medical care at reasonable cost," said Commissioner Goodell. "This is principally directed toward those who are in dire need or can't afford the proper kind of care."
Among the ideas being discussed:
- Better identification of players who need assistance and making the system more efficient so that help can be delivered to these players.
- Arrangements with facilities in different areas of the country where former players can obtain high-quality care at a reasonable cost.
- Collaborating with outside service groups to provide players with education and guidance on obtaining medical care at reasonable costs that would expand access to care for retired players.
- Ensuring availability of affordable assisted living facilities for former players.
Former NFL players who want to support these efforts will have the opportunity to contribute to their former teammates by participating in fund-raising efforts, including golf tournaments and online auctions.
The distribution of funds for medical needs will be managed by representatives of the participating groups.
The 88 Plan, named after Pro Football Hall of Famer John Mackey, is an example of one such fund that was created as part of the extended Collective Bargaining Agreement between the NFL and its players in 2006. Former players in various stages of dementia, including Alzheimer's disease, may receive as much as $88,000 annually to assist in their medical care.
In recent weeks, the NFL office has spoken to Sam Huff and Jack Kemp and several other former players and the New York Jets' Curtis Martin for their views on how to address these medical issues in the most effective way. More than 900 former players and/or their families have received financial help in recent years from either the NFLPA's Players Assistance Trust or the NFL Alumni Association's Dire Need Fund.
In addition, 284 former players are receiving disability payments which total $19 million this year, including some that receive as much as $224,000 annually.