(Gregory Shamus/AP :: Matt Rourke/AP :: Charles Krupa/AP)
(Gregory Shamus/AP :: Matt Rourke/AP :: Charles Krupa/AP)

On the Defense After Defending Ex-Players

You still think the players took a bad deal in the concussion settlement, you hate my Super Bowl pick, plus a question on Tim Tebow's future

As we head into Week 1 of the NFL’s 94th season, I’m playing defense after Monday’s column on Kevin Turner and the plaintiffs’ attorney, Chris Seeger. Your email:

GOOD QUESTION. “I’ve enjoyed your NFL work for many years. It’s the first thing I read every Monday to recap the preceding week. I follow the NFL pretty thoroughly, and I’ve noticed in recent years that some other NFL writers seem to view you as some sort of ‘establishment’ columnist; that is, the not-uncommon perception seems to be that you represent the NFL company line in a lot of your writing. While I do think yours is a fairly mainstream point of view, I don’t think you’re an NFL shill, and I find your work insightful and interesting. My question is this: Do you see this perception in the world of NFL commentary and, if so, what’s your reaction to it? I count myself among your fans, and am just curious if this is a dynamic with which you have to deal in your work.’’

—Tim, Albuquerque, N.M.

Thanks for the nice email, Tim. I do hear that a lot. All I can say is I approach each story or column item trying to be fair to all sides and trying to tell a story the way I think it’s best to tell. For instance, over the weekend, I sought out the most public of the plaintiffs in the concussion lawsuit, Kevin Turner, and the lead attorney for the players, Chris Seeger, because I wanted to know why the players took the deal they took. I was intrigued by a point in an ESPN story Saturday night—that the judge in the case was pressuring both sides to make a deal, telling the players, in part, that she would be inclined to take all players from 1994-2010 out of the plaintiffs’ pool because the CBA called for grievances to be settled via the NFL grievance process, not in court. If that indeed happened, the players’ case would have been severely hurt.

One-Minute Drills

Peter King has everything you need to know about every team entering the 2013 season, in sixty seconds.

Turner, for instance, who has ALS, would not have been eligible to be in the case because he played during that time. There was no question in my reporting that this point by the judge influenced the players taking the settlement. If you’re Kevin Turner, and your attorney says, “I think we can get you $4 million or $5 million within the next couple of years—or we can go to court, and you might get thrown out of the suit entirely, or it might take six or eight years for final adjudication and we can’t promise we’ll win … What do you want us to do?” What would you say if you were Turner? Just what he said: Take what you can get now. My point is, I wrote the column about how much sense it made for the players to take what they got, in my opinion. And quite a few Twitter followers blasted me for it. That’s okay. If you’re in a job like this, in today’s media, you’re going to take criticism. Just know that I try to be fair and conscientious.

TEBOW WANTS TO PLAY QUARTERBACK. “When Tebow signed with New England, I really thought he would be moved to tight end or another position. Is his lack of position flexibility hurting him?”

—Brenda, Saline, Mich.

What’s hurting him, Brenda, is that teams don’t see him as a quarterback or even a quarterback project. They don’t think he can be accurate enough. If he trained hard as a tight end, I do think he’d get one more chance to make a roster.

IT. “I often hear commentators talking about the ‘It factor’ that certain great players have. In your opinion, what are the defining characteristics of this?”

—Adam

Gil Brandt has helped select the preseason college all-star team forever, and he told me once about the year (I think it was 1995) that he picked Ray Lewis as one of his linebackers. Lewis was the youngest player on the squad, and when the “team” gathered to be photographed in Phoenix, Brandt noticed everyone following Lewis around. They played pickup basketball, and Lewis chose sides. They’d go to the movies, and they went to see what Lewis wanted to see. He was the pied piper. How? Why? His presence and his ability, without saying much, to get guys to follow him. I think it’s that, and your demonstrated ability. Derek Jeter always says loud leaders are overrated, and I agree.

BRIAN BROHM LIVES! “On the Bonus Baby QBs part of MMQB, you listed Brian Brohm as “On The Street”. While, yes, he’s out of the NFL, he’s actually with the Hamilton Tiger-Cats of the CFL, plying his trade and continuing his dream, and who knows, like Jeff Garcia, Doug Flutie and Dave Dickinson, maybe makes it back to the NFL. I can see how someone might say “that’s just semantics”, but it’s not like he’s given up the dream and is selling insurance, or, like JaMarcus Russell after getting released by the Raiders, holed up in his mansion and feeding his face.”

—Kevin

Important point, Kevin. Thanks for making it.

GOOD QUESTION II. “Why don’t teams like the Bills, Browns, and Cardinals just draft a quarterback every year? Finding the right quarterback is clearly the quickest way back to the playoffs, so why not keep bringing them in every year? Finding a salvageable veteran in free agency is just as much a shot in the dark anyways and young QB prospects always have value. If I am the Buffalo Bills, who just drafted EJ Manuel in the first round, why wouldn’t I go ahead and draft another QB in the first four rounds next season and the season after? If the Manuel pick works out then I have a young QB prospect or two to trade, and if he doesn’t work out then you already have the next guy or two on your roster. This strategy would speed up the rebuilding process because its eliminates the wait-and-see approach — if/when your high draft pick flops then you have already planned ahead.’’

—T.K.

Talk Back

Have a question or comment for Peter? Email him at talkback@themmqb.com and it might be included in next Tuesday's mailbag.

The Packers used to take a quarterback every year (or nearly every year) under Ron Wolf. I think it’s smart—except there’s one point about your scenario I don’t buy. If E.J. Manuel is Buffalo’s quarterback and plays well this year and starts all 16 games, how are you going to give the backup a chance to play enough to show some team out there he’s worth a mid-round pick or better in trade? It’s one thing if you can get your backup quarterback 50 to 100 throws in a year, to showcase him for the other teams in football. But in most cases teams aren’t going to pay anything for a guy they’ve only see in preseason games.

I HAVE WONDERED THIS TOO. “I loved the article about Kevin Turner and the NFL-Player settlement. But something struck me as I read the article. Turner said he played for Alabama. If the average tenure of a player in the NFL is four years, and if Turner played for Alabama for four years, why aren’t the major universities enjoined in this lawsuit?  It seems to me that just as much punishment to Turner’s body could have arisen from his time at Alabama as with the NFL. As a part of the lawsuit, were players’ histories with concussions and other injuries while in college investigated? It seems to me that the coaches in the SEC often out-earn the coaches in the NFL, so clearly the universities and their athletic departments have just as deep of pockets as the NFL.’’

—Dennis

You’re a smart man, Dennis. Do you know that the NFL was going to make that point exactly if this case even went to trial? I am told the league had video or film of some major shots some of the big plaintiffs had taken in college (I don’t doubt Turner was one of these players), and was prepared to use those at trial. You make an excellent point: If an NFL player played four years in high school, four years in college and four years in the NFL, how could you assign all of his brain damage to the final four years?

HE DOESN’T LIKE THE PATS’ PICK. “I can only shake my head, again, at your pick in the magazine of the Patriots to win the Super Bowl. They haven’t won in a decade, their offense lost numerous key players from last season, and their defense is in the bottom third of the league. The magazine’s preview for the Pats did not even mention defense. Sure looks like a couple of New England fans made the pick and wrote the piece.’’

—Bart C., St. Louis, Mo.

One person made the picks: me. New England was ninth in the league in scoring defense, and the core of that defense, a young one, returns. It’s not a great defense, but it’s good enough to win when the offense is explosive. You’re right: The Patriots lost huge firepower from last year’s team. I don’t know if there’s enough there to keep New England scoring 30 points a game or not. But in the last three years, the Pats have averaged 32.4, 32.0 and 34.8 points per game. They run the no-huddle offense at will. In the end, I chose to trust Tom Brady’s ability to keep the Patriots’ production up. Even if they score 27 points a game, the combination of an easy division making them favorites to win home-field in the AFC and a defense that’s average or a little better contributed to my decision to pick New England.

34 comments
M30
M30 like.author.displayName 1 Like

Peter, just explain your ties to Boston and admit that you're an unapologetic Pats homer.  I'd at least respect that.  As it is, your attempt to claim impartiality in your picks is laughable at best.  

KirkNewsted
KirkNewsted

@M30 Peter does this a lot.  He's also really good at saying dumb things 2 or 3 years ago and then backpedaling like crazy when he gets called on it.  Witness his comments about Hernandez being the second coming when the Pats drafted him, and then when Hernandez gets arrested he's blaming the Pats for drafting him.  


Peter is nothing if not consistent.

ProfessorGriff
ProfessorGriff

Peter King only talks about three things.  The Patriots, Tim Teblow and Brett Farve.

Michael205
Michael205

Tim  Tebow reminds me of a guy from green bay named Paul.  How come someone has not told Tim he could be a hof by being a running back for could throw option passes?

NeedARealGM
NeedARealGM like.author.displayName 1 Like

My Mom wouldn't let me play football in high school because she felt it was too dangerous.  Now I'm in my fifties, I've raised my kids that are now in college, I work at a good job but I'm not ever going to be rich, I make enough to pay the bills, it only took 20 years to pay off my student loans and I take a decent vacation now and then and own a nice home in the suburbs.  If I'm lucky, I won't get laid off anytime soon and as of now it looks like I'll be able to retire when I turn 70.  Basically, I live the life of an average everyman and it sucks most of the time.  Gee thanks Mom.....I think I'll file a lawsuit against my Mom because if she had let me play football, I could've excelled and gone to college for free, made an NFL team, earned several million dollars, lived high on the hog for about 5 to 10 years while people all over the world cheered for me and admired my gutsy determination and then once it was over, although I'd have squandered most of my money and bought a gigantic home that I can no longer afford, I could've then sued my former employer, the NFL, and now made a nice little settlement for myself to extend my dream of not having to work some boring job til I'm 70 years old.  Come on now, who's with me? How dare our Mom's use common sense way back in the early 70's when obviously everyone was totally stupid when it came to medical issues but somehow our Mom's had some way of knowing that a sport where you run headlong into people could be very dangerous.  Look what our Mom's did to those of us that weren't allowed to play...we have normal lives and we're relatively healthy and get to work at our run of the mill jobs until we're 70.  Let's class action this and sue all of our Mother's together....just imagine how cool it'll be when Mom has to turn over her social security check to us....we might be able to buy that boat or motorcycle we've always wanted....YEAH!!! WHO'S WITH ME!!!!

JohnRoberts
JohnRoberts

The column is fun the read, the columnist is a marshmallow reporter.

Hampton180
Hampton180

Maybe the Pats would make sense PRE-Spygate

nomad
nomad like.author.displayName 1 Like

Peter King picking the Patriots to win it all.  Big shock.  He has been a Pats lacky from day one.

marino.eccher
marino.eccher

Of all the arguments against picking the Pats, "they haven't won in a decade" makes no sense. That's like saying the 49ers won't win it because they haven't won since '94, or the Ravens wouldn't win it last year because they hadn't won since 2000. Every team is different every year. People pick the Patriots for pretty simple reasons: they have a good quarterback, a good coach and consistently put themselves in a position to make the playoffs and compete for home field. And as for that bottom-third defense: they've been a top-10 scoring defense in every season but one of the past 5. Yards don't end up on the scoreboard. You don't have to pick them, but it's hardly a random or dumb choice.

Gs1
Gs1

@marino.eccher  There are better teams that beat them last year in their own house with an inexperienced QB, with just as good a coach, with a considerably better defense & more depth this year at every position. The Pats will be a good team but have so have so many more holes then other teams he dismisses regardless of Brady. Sounds like a total homer call.

marino.eccher
marino.eccher like.author.displayName 1 Like

@Gs1 There are two teams that "beat them in their own house" last year: San Francisco and Baltimore. I assume you're talking about San Francisco, which is a fine Super Bowl pick. Plenty of people are making it. If you mean Baltimore, that's fine too -- they've got issues, but so does everyone, and that's another team that consistently puts itself in a position to compete. 

Vegas thinks the Pats are a favorite to win it. They're 10/1, right behind Denver (6/1), San Fran (6/1) and Seattle (17/2). And Vegas doesn't do homer calls. Like I said: it's a perfectly defensible pick. 

jzo
jzo

The other big winners in this are the lawyers. $200 million (~29% of the players total - $685M - for how many of them? That would be interesting data to have. Also, do you think the law firms are going to wait 20 years for their total payout?

DocFlash
DocFlash like.author.displayName 1 Like

@jzo @jzo Wrong. The league is paying the lawyers. Comment after you find out the truth. 

evil.aaronm
evil.aaronm

@DocFlash I think he's referring to the percentage of what the players got, even if the NFL is paying the bill, and I agree: the lawyers didn't take the hits, and they're not suffering the consequences.  Surely, they're entitled to appropriate remuneration, but $200 million?

bdawg
bdawg

I just cant seem to grasp the merits of this lawsuit.  I really don't have anything against these player, but when I read that a player loved the game, willingly played and played as if it was an privilege, then I don't understand why someone else is liable for them.  Having said that, I can appreciate the argument that they didn't know of all the dangers....but then  still cant understand why its someone else's fault.  Unless there is to be some massive conspiracy to be proven, I am having a hard time with these players who willing destroyed there body and played when hurt to now come back asking for money.  It is especially hard to get on board when one of these players allows/encourages his son to play football when he now complains of his suffering.  I mean, if you are a decent parent, why would you let/encourage/be proud that your kid is now endangering himself?  That's the rationale (I try anyway) part of my thoughts. My irrational thought is that these guys spend their entire lives getting special treatment for being football players and I am sure that they have willingly accepted these accolades, freebies, benefits, star treatment, etc. and yet now, when its all said and done they come back asking for more as if someone owes them more.

evil.aaronm
evil.aaronm

@bdawg I think you're overlooking the part where team doctors and coaches would put players back in the game when their ability to play was compromised.  Players will tough it out and get back in there, or someone will take their spot, so you can't trust them to make rational decisions.  Doctors, at least, should put the health of the player before the good of the team, and they didn't.  The player would say, "I'm good to go," and doctors, possibly under pressure from coaches, would let them go back out for another round, in spite of the doctors' better judgement.  That's the underpinning of the lawsuit: people who should've known better than to let an injured player go back in and risk further damage didn't uphold their responsibilities.  If it were just one doctor and one team, that would be one thing.  But it was league-wide, in their desire to deliver a compelling product.

lionoah
lionoah

@evil.aaronm @bdawg I agree. Not to sound crazy here, but if a soldier gets hurt, he gets medical attention and if he can go he can go. If he can't go he can't. For the cases where the government put their own soldiers in danger, there are hearings and someone usually has to answer for that. Never mind that being a soldier is a dangerous job.

I think the point is that everyone knows that football is very dangerous and guys play willingly. However, the doctors are tasked with making sure players don't worsen the damage, and there were likely many incidents where the players' best interests were not really taken into consideration. If teams were putting players on the field with concussions, they should have known better. That's what the doctors are their for; it's their job to make sure that ONLY healthy players are playing ball. Not making sure that the team wins a game, and I think every team over a number of years made questionable decisions regarding player health in the interest of teams winning games. Thus exasperating concussions and the results. 

OK
OK like.author.displayName 1 Like

One lousy question about the Greatest American Ever to Play in the NFL, Reverend Tebow.

Pathetic.

NeedARealGM
NeedARealGM like.author.displayName like.author.displayName 2 Like

Peter, I have a huge problem 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? I'm even more offended when you attach a sympathy card to the picture by including an ALS sufferer as the poster boy for this mess.  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.

DavidHarte
DavidHarte

@NeedARealGM 


Sorry about your father; it's a brutal disease, but you are wrong about the link between ALS and head trauma.  UCSF is conducting a study right now that shows a strong link, and there is data linking Alzheimer's and Parkinson's as well.

Football will be Big Tobacco in the coming decade and Goodell knows this.  The deal struck last week is just a temporary "fix," I suspect.

eddie767
eddie767

@NeedARealGM Kevin Turner was a named plantiff in the case,that's the reason he was questioned. Sorry about your father,i'm going through testing now,and scared to death. Also,the NFL new about the correlation of concussions and ALS,Dementia,et.al,but didn't tell players. I still think they would've kept playing,then the NFL could not have been sued. Hope everyone takes notice and just tells truth now,it costs a lot less.

Case
Case like.author.displayName like.author.displayName 2 Like

I think the reason people look at King as a shill for the league is pretty well evidenced by yesterday's column. There are clearly multiple perspectives on this deal but King told one and, shockingly, it was the one that said things like "football didn't do this to me", "the past is the past" and "We should be excited about the game now. It’s the most beloved game in the country, and they’re making it safer now."

How in the world anyone would think that this story begins and ends with one or two opinions, both of which defend the settlement and the league, is beyond me unless they're just trying to defend the league. 

OK
OK

@Case  

King obeys Goodell. That's why King went from the toilet, Cincinnati, to SI and now to NBC and the Big Apple. King didn't make that trip from the Outhouse to the Penthouse on talent.  King made it on Kissing Goodell's Posterior.

DocFlash
DocFlash

@OK @Case Really? Really? Man concussion issues must be one of your problems as well.

BillRobinson
BillRobinson like.author.displayName 1 Like

@OK @Case - Agree with @VanHayhow; these posts are about as stupid as any I have seen.

Mike26
Mike26

Why are there no comments here yet?

SteveRowFla
SteveRowFla

New England?!  They've lost far more big games than they've won over the past 10 years.  Like many teams that have a great run, they're living on refried dreams.  

KidHorn
KidHorn like.author.displayName 1 Like

PK an establishment writer? Of course he is. He has a cushy job where he also gets to be on TV from time to time. No way he writes anything except the deal is great for everyone. Doing simple math should tell you that there can't be too many people like Mr Turner getting 5 million. I mean, if everyone got that much, you had better hope you're not more than the 100th person in line.

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