Fighting for Themselves, Fighting for the Game

Kevin Turner
Kevin Turner didn’t think he’d see the day when resolution between the former players and the NFL was reached. (Matt Rourke/AP)

I asked Turner if he’d ever gotten a concussion during a game and played through it.

“Sure,’’ he said. “The year after Green Bay won the Super Bowl, I was on the Eagles, and we played them in Philly. I remember the opening kickoff, and then I remember, maybe late in the first quarter, going up to our backup quarterback and saying, ‘You’ll think I’m crazy, but are we in Green Bay or Philly? And how are we doing?’ He went and got a doctor. Turns out I had played a bunch of plays on automatic pilot. The doctor said, ‘Remember these words,’ and I couldn’t. And he gave me the test three or four times, and finally I think it was the fourth time, I remembered the words and they let me back in the game. You can’t imagine the fit I would have thrown if they wouldn’t have let me back in the game.”

Turner played the rest of the game. He remembers a long drive in the fourth quarter—being the lead blocker for Ricky Watters on play after play—that led to the winning touchdown. Nineteen plays, 80 yards, touchdown. Block after block. “That’s just what you did then,’’ he said. He watched film with his mates the next day, and there was a series of plays he had no idea had happened. He was back at practice Wednesday, and played the next week.

That wasn’t the only time he played when he shouldn’t have. But he blames himself as much as he blames the football culture of the day. “Football didn’t do this to me,’’ he said. “My ignorance did it. That, and maybe others who should have known better.”

On Aug. 22, Turner had a surgical procedure. A doctor implanted six electrodes on his diaphragm. “That should give me 24 to 36 more months breathing on my own,’’ Turner said. Before he needs a ventilator to breathe for him. He’s spending “darn near every cent’’ of his disability payments on treatments and doctors and medication and equipment.

“From the get-go,’’ he said, “I was worried about how long this would drag out. I didn’t think I’d see anything, but I was hopeful my kids would.

Kevin Turner's body isn't what you'd expect from a former NFL player.
Kevin Turner’s body isn’t what you’d expect from a former NFL player. (Gary Bogdon/SI)

“I didn’t do this for a public hanging of the NFL. I never wanted to kill the NFL. The past is the past. What’s more important? Hanging the NFL for the sins of the past? Ruining the lives of people who, I’m guessing, most of them don’t even work in the NFL anymore? Or doing something to really help people, and then really working to make the game safer?’’

“How,’’ I said, “can you still love the game?”

“I think even moreso I’m excited about the game now,’’ said Turner. “Now, you see doctors, trainers and coaches who have the knowledge about concussions and head injuries treating them different than when I played. We should be excited about the game now. It’s the most beloved game in the country, and they’re making it safer now. Now, a guy wobbles back to the sidelines, and it’s likely he’s done for the day. But they’ll examine him now. Refs are looking now. Trainers, doctors are looking. Hopefully, after 10 years, after maybe one more generation of players understands it’s okay to say you have a concussion, players will learn a different game. Tackling with your head up, with your shoulders, not lowering your head.’’

I never wanted to kill the NFL. The past is the past. What’s more important? Hanging the NFL for the sins of the past? … Or doing something to really help people, and then really working to make the game safer?

With the money he gets from the settlement, Turner said he hopes to help his 70-year-old father so he can stop working. He wants to put enough money away so his three children will be well-educated—something he knows he would have been able to provide were it not for the ALS. He wants to seek treatment for himself, in the hopes that some new ALS treatment might be found. “Then,’’ he said, “if there’s anything left over, I’d like to help fund some research into ALS. I honestly believe we will find something to stop this in the next five years.’’

That was repeated to Chris Seeger Sunday night. “That’s why Kevin Turner was a driving force for me in this case,’’ Seeger said. “These are the people we should really admire in life.”

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135 comments
epste696
epste696

Comment on the format (for the entire site) now that it's been 1+ months.  Looks like it was designed for the under 10 or over 80 crowd.  The large pictures and large boxes and large print give me a headache.  I still log on to read MMQB, but I've given up on the rest.

poeboy
poeboy

PETER-- I do believe somebody just turned off the switch.. I have a building with vapor lights and they take 20 to 25 minutes to reset. They still have not explained what happened. Since The Super Dome has opened, it has hosted NFL, NBA, AAA baseball, NCAA and high school football and basketball, Monster Trucks, Circus', BMX, Conventions.. The lights going out has NEVER happened before. Besides, if it had been a relay or transformer, the lights would have been out a lot longer. It is not crazy or farfetched that someone, basically, threw the breaker and immediately turned it back on. The lights go out and it takes 20-25 minutes to reset. Just enough time to prevent a blow out and NFL ratings disaster. Like I said, there has not been an explanation of what happened.  

CharlieCharnigo
CharlieCharnigo

"That, by the way, might be the silliest thing I’ve heard a player say in a long, long time. And that encompasses a lot of silliness. Lewis said he had no facts to back up his accusation, made in the NFL Films’ America’s Game show, which will be shown tonight on NFL Network. “But,’’ Lewis says on the show, “you cannot tell me somebody wasn't sitting there and when they say, ‘The Ravens [are] about to blow them out. Man, we better do something.’ … “ Lewis doesn't need advice from me, but he should have stopped at, “I’m not going to accuse nobody of nothing.”....Perhaps you are unfamiliar with the 1958 NFL Championship Game...not that the Greatest Game Ever Played was important to the NFL or anything...but in the '58 game late in the game the TV cable broke...so the entire country was not going to see the end of the game...then...well waddya know...some "person" runs onto the field and causes a delay in the game and the cable is fixed. Yea...the NFL would NEVER ever do something like that. Oh and it was and is widely speculated that that "person" was an employee of the NFL offices in NYC. 

timohuatl
timohuatl

9 espresso shots on a Sunday? That can only mean it's the Niner's year! You made the wrong pick, Peter. San Francisco will take home the trophy!

But seriously, you obviously know the game better than most, including myself, but if I may isolate just one part of your selection results, I'll bet my decision-making metric is pretty good.

MischaFleishman
MischaFleishman

Can someone please consider Johnny Jolly as comeback player of the year? The dude has been out of the league for 3 years, two of those years spent in jail.  He isn't in one of the glamorous positions in football, DT or LDE in a 3/4, but the dude got his life straightened out, made it back to the NFL, and made a 53 man roster at the age of 30.  If Michael Vick can win Comeback Player of the Year, why is nobody evening considering Jolly as a candidate?  They both did wrong, they both may have been subject to the culture they grew up in, and struggled to escape their past, but if we can heroize a man who murdered animals, why can't we do the same for a man who had an addiction to codeine?

I know Jolly won't win the award, I don't think he should, because his impact to his team is far less than a star QB or RB or CB even, but I think that he should at least be mentioned as a possible candidate, because he offers more as a hero figure and role model than a player coming off a torn ACL does.  Maybe Jolly will be a candidate for the Ed Block courage award? Probably not though.

TZT
TZT

Did Peter actually mention the Chargers?  Hell must have froze over.

DjangoZeaman
DjangoZeaman

Peter - any job that requires you drink that much caffeine is probably not a healthy job to have. It's a massively different scale, but in a column all about players hurting their long term health in order to play football I couldn't help but notice your own willingness to hurt yourself for your job.

The truth is that we glorify over-working and working to the point of injuring our health. No matter the profession.

JackLandon
JackLandon

re:  Pat White making the 'Skins squad.  Keep in mind that RGIII is coming off major knee surgery and has seen no game action AND Kirk Cousins missed most of the pre-season with a sprained foot.  I would say that right now White, in addition to being Vick in practice this week, is also insurance.  Give them a couple weeks of good health from Griffin and Cousins and either White or Grossman will likely be released.  Mpst likely White. 

NeedARealGM
NeedARealGM

I have a really hard time not only with this story but with the notion that grown men voluntarily playing a violent sport for millions of dollars were somehow duped into thinking that there wouldn't be a price to pay physically down the road? Now Peter King very blindly attaches a sympathy card to the picture by including an ALS sufferer as the poster boy for this entire mess.  It is an insult pure and simple.  I lost my father to ALS and I've been involved in the ongoing fight for dollars to support research and I can tell you it has nothing to do with concussions, anyone that says it does is preaching junk science for personal gain.  It is very sad to see the condition of Kevin Turner and having gone through this with my Dad, he is facing a slow decline to a point where his muscles will no longer serve his purposes and he will die.  What Peter King doesn't point out is that ALS is a slow decline and death of all nerve cells that deliver messages from the brain to the muscles and researchers do not know why this occurs, but they've narrowed the scope to include heredity (1 in 10 cases), gene mutation, chemical imbalance of glutamate, and abnormal handling of proteins in the gene cells that become toxic.  The irony of ALS, the brain continues to function at 100 percent normal levels so the person becomes trapped in their functionless body but have a fully functioning brain to the very end.  To suggest that ALS is triggered by brain trauma is reckless and not supported by fact.  This is nothing more than an attempt to gain sympathy for a cause and I'm not buying it.  These players have earned big dollars during a brief window of opportunity, they no longer have the ability to earn those big dollars and most of them never planned ahead....this is nothing more than an attempt to hold the league hostage and extort more money to now bail out a majority of former players that are living in poverty.  Have you seen any football players today, with everything we know about sports medicine, head trauma, etc., refusing to play in the NFL out of concern for their health in later years? No, they continue to line up and hope and pray that their name gets called on draft day just like they did 30 years ago....and just like they did all those years ago, most of today's players will not put money aside for their life after football and we will continue to see stories of former players that once were cheered by the masses now down and out and somehow we're supposed to feel sorry for them? How about the workers that paid into retirement funds all their working lives then hit 65 and found out their pensions were not funded and they have to keep working to put food on the table....that's a real story.  I say, how about these former players going to work or is that beneath them? The real headline should be, former NFL players successfully extort 765 million dollars from NFL.

Paul Sousa
Paul Sousa

non football thoughts - one of the reasons they went to the one game wild card is to value winning the division.  There were seasons in which NYY and/or  Bos and/or Tampa clinched their spots and it was obvious they were trying to get the first round matchup of their choice by fielding an MLB team of September callus.

scBlais
scBlais

"Good example of reaching for a guy who never really loved the game. Watkins never played football until he was 22."

I hope you have some greater inside knowledge off his love of the game other than the age he started playing it.  If that is what your basing it on, then you really are becoming a crackpot.

k15
k15

I dont see how Watkins was a reach?  he was listed on every expert list as a "good" pick.  Sometimes these guys just arent good.  He was lost in Philly.

jsteppling
jsteppling

too soon to give up on danny watkins. Philly was not the right place. Now, maybe he does wash out....but miami is going to sign him and i bet he sticks. He was too good at baylor.

FeliciaFitzgerald
FeliciaFitzgerald

I'm having a tough time sympathizing with any former NFL player who gets a multi-million dollar settlement for any on-the-job injury - even if the NFL is a multi-billion dollar operation.

Compare this with industrial accidents in the fast food industry. McDonald's employees are far more likely to be seriously injured on the job (with serious burns happening almost daily worldwide). McDonald's is, of course, a much more profitable business than the NFL. However, McDonald's employees are grossly underpaid and get no medical benefits.

It's time to stop idolizing sports players and thinking it's OK for teams to give a contract of $275M for ten years to a single player. It's the fans that get $crewed in the end (Hello pre-season ticket that costs $300!)

BronzeBomber
BronzeBomber

Now that the concussion settlement is complete, can we all stop acting like players didn't know getting hit in the head was dangerous?

Mike26
Mike26

Re:  David Carr being signed.

He ceased to be a viable NFL QB by the end of his 3rd season and 150 sacks.  "Happy feet" in the pocket doesn't begin to describe him.

MarcieMargotti
MarcieMargotti

Thank you Peter King for your support of the cause for a cure for ALS. I lost my dad to ALS in 2006. (Marcie Trembulak Margotti)

Cornerss
Cornerss

whats inflation take that  $765 million spread over 20 years? This might as well have just been a loan for the NFL teams, they didn't learn anything from it. I would imagine just jersey sales eclipse that  number in a short time.

Mark20
Mark20

"I hate the one-game Wild Card in baseball. It devalues the 162-game season." Well, the only thing that could "devalue" a 162 game season, is a 162 game season. Ludicrous.

RonAglund
RonAglund

I think the most telling and sad part of this is the NFL will be paying about 200 million to the lawyers. If you have ALS you are capped at 5mil, Parkinson's 4mil, and Alzheimer and Dementia 3mil these are all max amounts and most won't receive near that.

...but the lawyers will get $200 million dollars...just for filing and representing the players....what's wrong here.

A handful of men will receive more than a 1/3 the amount going to a bunch of men with ALS, Alzherimers, etc ($75 mil goes to testing) to treat all these conditions. The rest will be spent on houses, expensive cars, etc...

ShifterKart
ShifterKart

"thinking about this man and how important it was to him that he provide for his family, that his children get the college education they deserve.”

The Turners were doing well before KT played pro ball. I am sure his kids would have gone to college regardless. (I lived in the town he was from, Prattville, Alabama, same HS etc.). Anyone in the US can get financial aid or Pell grants... They knew the risk they were taking just as drivers know their risk in racing.While I am not unsympathetic to the injured athletes, It seems to me it is like an Army Ranger suing the Gov. because they got wounded. Both know the risk and love what they do. not buying it myself, same as people who over spent and wanted a bailout because they could not pay for their house and maxed out their home loan as opposed to living within their means.

Thanks.

C-Diddy
C-Diddy

An old school New England liberal siding with management?  The apocalypse is upon us.

gary7
gary7

Where's the Peter King Challenge this year can't find it, he made me a ton of money by going against his picks

Piedra
Piedra

The math doesn't add to me. 685 million dollars for  4,500 players each one gets $152,000. If 171 get diagnosed Parkinson they will run out of money.

.

shingen
shingen

What a surprise, Peter King is carrying water for the NFL on the concussion lawsuit. 

timabuttle
timabuttle

Good Morning Peter. Normally I don't read items related to legal issues, but I read your column this morning about the settlement between the NFL and players regarding injuries. Great job. Kevin Turner is someone you root for and I agree that this settlement is best for everyone. I feel it is important for players to get help now rather than waiting years from now for help. Keep up the great work. Love the new format. Peace

Richard Long
Richard Long

The Raiders really tried to trade Kluwe?  A punter who failed to win the job for two teams in the past two years?  In the NFL, you never spend a draft pick on a punter, much less one that is on a decline.  Also, surprised Peter didn't note the Raiders whiff on Tyler Bray. For a team in cap he11 and in desperate need of good drafts, to cut your 4th round pick is pretty awful.  Raiders faithful who think Reggie is the answer, you may be asking the wrong question. 

JeffWBrown
JeffWBrown

OMG.  Peter King mentioned the Panthers in a column.  The world is ending.

slkinsey
slkinsey

I noted with interest the specific mentions of payouts for those who suffer from ALS and Parkinson's Disease, which seems to indicate an implied causative relationship.  I suppose it's possible I missed this somewhere along the way, but is there any solid statistical analysis showing that former NFL players suffer from ALS and Parkinson's Disease at higher rates that comparable segments of the general population?  Higher rates of Parkinsonism as a result of chronic traumatic encephalopathy makes some sense to me, so I wouldn't be surprised to see that, but I don't believe there any link has been established between ALS and chronic traumatic encephalopathy (or any other trauma).

DaveinPA
DaveinPA

@FeliciaFitzgerald  The example you gave of the contract of "$275M for ten years to a single player" is in baseball, not football. You're talking about the Alex Rodriguez contract. There is no contract in the NFL that is the same as Rodriguez's contract. By the way, in the NFL, contracts are not guaranteed; only their singing bonus is guaranteed.

Otherwise, I agree with your main point. :-)

Benjamin5
Benjamin5

@BronzeBomber so true   I mean what happened to being accountable for the choices one makes and assumption of risk?

MadDoser
MadDoser

@Mark20 Speak for yourself.  Some of us enjoy the whole 162 baseball season.

FeliciaFitzgerald
FeliciaFitzgerald

@RonAglund Why are you complaining about the injustice of paying lawyers $200M but no the injustice of paying NFL players (who BTW are all 1%-ers) millions of $$$ for potentially on-the-job injuries.

A construction worker that loses an arm will get a $10K settlement if s/he's lucky.

People need to get a grip...

LoriSandoval
LoriSandoval

@RonAglund The alternative to working on a contingency basis, where they only get paid if they win or settle successfully, is for the plaintiffs themselves to pay the legal fees as they go along.  In the latter case, the deep pockets of large corporate entities, who can afford to stretch out the litigation process until the plaintiffs are bankrupt, means that alot of people who deserved justice would be denied it.  Not fair, but reality.

Mike26
Mike26

@RonAglund 200 million IN ADDITION to the $$ going to the players will be paid separately to lawyers by the NFL. 

mystafugee
mystafugee

@C-Diddy he's always sided with management which is why he gets access.  Not saying it's right but that's how you gotta play the game with the NFL (see Playmakers and ESPN).

Mike26
Mike26

@Piedra The details are scant but all PK mentioned were maximums - no minimums.  Not everyone will receive the maximum, obviously.

Mike26
Mike26

@JeffWBrown The Panthers have been scraping the bottom of the NFL for years now.  Perhaps winning a few more games would earn more mention?

BrownRecluse
BrownRecluse

@slkinsey

Incorrect, CTE can cause Parkinson-like, or ALS-like, or Alzhemier's like disease manifestations, based on where most of the abnormal protein aggregates from the trauma (substantia-nigra- Parkinsons, frontal cortex, diffuse- Alzheimers).  TDP43,  an abnormal protein, is found in ALS as well as people with CTE who develop ALS (Kevin Turner).

Mike26
Mike26

@mystafugee @C-Diddy mysta:  That's how you play the game with ANY large corporation - it's NOT exclusive to the NFL.

a52wkhi
a52wkhi

But that doesnt mean that they develop ALS.

a52wkhi
a52wkhi

Read all that. Not convinced. Mckee's sample size was only 12, laughably small. What's more, other cases of hers included victims of accidental gunshot while cleaning his gun and another victim dying from a high speed police chase. Even worse for your argument, Mckee concedes..quoting her.."CTE is a neuropathologically distinct" from ALS.

BrownRecluse
BrownRecluse

Looks like you have already failed. I'll help slightly and then stop wasting my time.

Step 1: Google "CTE and ALS." 

The first hit, the wikipedia article on CTE, mentions the link between ALS and CTE and the research performed on it by McKee's group in Boston.  (Reference #59)

Step 2: Using Pubmed, you can search for several articles, done by McKee's group and others. 

Step 3: Read the literature and make your own conclusions.  You will also need to read about TDP43 in ALS for things to make sense.

I'm sure you will offer the same clumsy causality argument, but the actual contention is that CTE is associated with an ALS-like clinical picture (much like CTE and Alzheimer's-like disease and CTE and Parkinson's-like disease), in some players, Kevin Turner being the most high profile case. 

a52wkhi
a52wkhi

Try as I might, I still can't find ANY evidence that CTE causes ALS. Please provide evidence for your claim.

BrownRecluse
BrownRecluse

@a52wkhi Tell that to Kevin Turner- a guy who had to retire early due to head trauma then develops ALS.  I'm sure he cares whether you think it's causation or correlation. The NFL certainly didn't, and gave him the highest payout of any of the implicated illnesses (5M).

I'm a pathologist who has followed the story and the medical literature since Dr. Bennet Omalu wrote up his first case of the late Mike Webster having CTE.  I've made my own conclusions.  I suggest you do the same, then get back to me.

a52wkhi
a52wkhi

It's the old rule...correlation is not causation.

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