There are a lot of players out there like Dave Pear, John Welbourn
As the owners and the players continue to talk on both sides about reaching a labor settlement at some point before the 2011 season is wiped out, the retired players sit back and wonder how they will be accommodated in the billion-dollar industry they claim has forgotten far too many of them.
Dave Pear, a Pro Bowl defensive tackle for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers back when they couldn’t win a game, and a Super Bowl champion with the Oakland Raiders in 1980, is taking on the system. He’s battling for the rights of disabled retired players like himself on his Web site – davepear.com – and he’s doing so with the hope that DeMaurice Smith, the new head of the NFLPA, will better consider he and his brothers.
And if Pear isn’t gaining momentum, he’s certainly gaining a little recognition. Consider a letter that was sent by recently retired offensive lineman John Welbourn:
“I have no idea how I first started getting e-mail updates from your blog but am glad I do as I enjoy reading your site. My name is John Welbourn. I’m a 9-year veteran of the NFL. I got drafted in 1999 to the Philadelphia Eagles and played there 5 years then went to the Kansas City Chiefs for 4 years. My final year in 2008, I was with New England in training camp. After reading your blog and the plight of so many desperate players that have been forgotten and left to rot by the NFL and our Union, I thought I would offer a story that happened to me. Not as great a hardship as many of you have profiled here on the blog but equally appalling.”
Welbourn goes on to detail how he suffered a right knee injury playing for the Eagles at old Veterans Stadium. With the help of a lawyer, Welbourn claims he was granted “lifetime medical benefits” on his right knee and most of his lower leg following surgery to repair a torn lateral meniscus.
After leaving the New England Patriots, Welbourn had a doctor perform a cleanout on his knee and then pursued the Eagles for benefits. “The doctor was met with the runaround, dropped calls, denials and finally my favorite: that I was never an employee of the Eagles!” Welbourn wrote.
Welbourn says he has been pursuing the Eagles for two years to make good on the agreement he had with the organization.
“Actually, I have thought many times any player that played for the Eagles or was forced to play in the Vet should be part of a class action suit against the NFL and the Eagles for making us play on that crap,” he wrote. “The unsafe working conditions we were forced into by management, the NFL and Union are unconscionable.”
It’s an interesting read and quite frankly Pear has a lot of thought-provoking material on his Web site that he dubs the “unofficial blog for independent football veterans.” It's worth a look if you have some time. Pear personalizes what is a very painful daily existence for him and many others. The goal is to keep the plight of these men in the public scope instead of being relegated to an annual press conference at the Super Bowl.
It will be interesting to see if Pear and the scores of retired players in a similar situation are accommodated when the league and players finally reach an agreement. It's hard to imagine a system where everyone is taken care of, but something needs to change.
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