Pro Football Hall of Fame linebacker. Executive director, Fritz Pollard Alliance
As a 13-year veteran of the game and now a retiree myself, I understand first-hand the price many players paid to help build the National Football League into what it is today. The price paid for almost all were physical injuries (knees, hips, etc.) while many others suffered neurological impairment. The NFL should respond to the voices of older (pre-1993) former players and their spouses by bringing pensions and benefits in line with professional basketball and baseball.
Executive director, Pro Football Hall of Fame (retiring June 1)
It seems almost trivial to say, but the most important element of pro football’s success has always been its players, men who spend countless hours training and preparing for the greatest and most physically demanding sport played. While the financial rewards for today’s players are more reflective of the game’s success than ever, it’s important to remember that the average pro football career is relatively short, yet long-term post-career physical ailments might last a lifetime. The NFL should be applauded for its continuing efforts to address and improve health, safety and quality of life issues for its players. But, if I could do one thing to improve the game off the field it would be to provide former players, particularly those from the pre-1993 era, the same post-career health benefits as their present-day brethren. I realize this is no simple matter and will require the investment and cooperation of both the league and the players association, but I can think of no better initiative to begin the next century of the NFL.
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