Ex-NFL players aim for medical care

BY foxsports • April 18, 2012

Dave Pear has spent weeks preparing for the second Independent Football Veterans Conference that begins in Las Vegas on Friday.

He’d be fine, however, if there was no longer a need to inform players about lawsuits, brain injury research and disability claims.

“We tried to work through the system,” said Pear, a former all-pro defensive lineman. “We wanted to get our medical treatment paid for. We applied for disability benefits and were denied.”

Pear, who estimated he's spent $600,000 on various surgeries since retiring in 1980, is one of more than a thousand former players who are plaintiffs in various lawsuits against the NFL and several lawyers are listed among the speakers at the three-day conference. These lawsuits have gained favor as more research into the debilitating toll of concussions has come to light and the momentum toward former players seeking a legal remedy isn’t expected to subside.

“Once this concussion thing came to light, everything changed,” Pear said.

Jason Luckasevic, an attorney at Goldberg, Persky & White and one of the scheduled speakers, said the recent revelations of a bounty system set up by the New Orleans Saints has also sparked some interest, although the veteran players he’s spoken to said several teams had similar — if much less lucrative and less structured — programs.

“The aim of these lawsuits is, first, to make the game safer for current and future players, which has been accomplished (with recent rule changes),” said Luckasevic, who has teamed with two other firms to represent about 350 former players. “No. 2 is to see these guys get adequate medical care. These guys have been kicked to the curb and can’t support themselves financially. The NFL hasn’t taken care of its former players.”

The new collective bargaining agreement included a $1 billion in extra benefits for veterans, including a new “Legacy Fund” of $620 million that boosts pension payments. The new CBA also included new disability guidelines that were aimed at making funds more accessible to retired players.

About 50 players are expected to attend the conference and a live stream will be provided for the former players unable to make it to Las Vegas. Sean Pamphilon, the independent filmmaker who recorded the now-infamous audio of former New Orleans Saints defensive coordinator Gregg Williams, is also scheduled to part of a panel discussion. He spoke to FOXSports.com earlier this week.

“We really want to explain to these guys what these lawsuits are all about,” Luckasevic said. “We want to tell them about what the (legal) hurdles when it comes to winning or losing these case.”

Pear said there is an easy explanation why the web audience is expected to be much larger than those who attend in person.

“A lot of these guys are in such bad shape, they just can't make it,” Pear said.