Countdown to The Draft
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By Tony Grossi
The Morning Kickoff …
JB the filmmaker: Hall of Famer Jim Brown isn’t spending all his time motivating Trent Richardson and bashing Mike Holmgren.
“I want to do a documentary,” Brown told me recently.
From 1967 (“The Dirty Dozen”) through 2004 (“She Hate Me”), Brown appeared in 19 motion pictures. But he doesn’t want to star in his next project. It would be a hard-hitting look at the physical and mental plight of beaten-down former NFL players – a topic making headlines almost daily.
“I’m calling it, ‘It’s Not Football-Related,’” Brown said. “That is always what the league has said (about post-career ailments). They bring in doctors and say it’s not football related.
“The (players) union turned down lifetime health care. So you’ve got a mess going on. One thing you should always do is take care of your older players. There should be a decent pension and always health care for life. That would be a way of showing that you care about your players.”
Hitting home: Brown got a painful, close-up look at the welfare of retired players when former teammate Gene Hickerson was inducted in the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 2007. At the time, Hickerson was suffering with Alzheimer’s disease and vascular dementia and could not speak.
In his first return to the Hall of Fame since his own enshrinement 36 years earlier, Brown joined fellow Hall of Famers Leroy Kelly and Bobby Mitchell in pushing the wheelchair-bound Hickerson onstage in Fawcett Stadium in Canton. It remains the most dramatic induction ceremony in my 18 years on the Hall of Fame committee.
Hickerson died 14 months after his induction.
The recent suicide deaths of former Bears safety Dave Duerson and former Chargers linebacker Junior Seau – and the lengthening list of former players joining concussion lawsuits against the NFL – have brought even more awareness to the white-hot issue of taking care of former NFL players.
“Doctors have proved that it is football related,” Brown said. “You look at the guys struggling, and homeless, and for a guy to commit suicide and leave a note to look at his brain, man, that’s some deep stuff.”
Bounty-gate: Brown thinks the whole New Orleans Saints bounty scandal is a cover-up of league responsibility for taking care of its former players.
“If you look at the National Football League right now and look at how they have not taken care of their wounded warriors and look at the cover-ups, you’re blaming people ... this whole bounty thing is ridiculous,” he said. “The only thing you have to do is get rid of the dirty players. Bounties have always gone on. It was never a matter of injuring players. It was a matter of getting players to hit. Ronnie Lott was a hitter. A hero. Dirty players aren’t respected.
“So you have to look at the greed and the false representation. So when you start criticizing certain players about their dedication to hitting hard and when their helmet slides over and hits a helmet, you can’t always avoid that. Dirty players, fine, should be out of the league. But you can’t measure a guy and try to hit him someplace. You just try to hit him. If you can get a guy out of the game by a hard tackle, you’d take that every day. You just don’t want to take him out at the knees or put a forearm to him.
“The commissioner, I like him, and I think he tries to do a good job. On the other hand, the popularity of the game causes people to be selfish.
“So when I look at the franchise of the Cleveland Browns, I’m so glad that I’m not there to be a part of what’s going on now. I wouldn’t want to be a part of this.”
|Tony Grossi covers the Browns for ESPN 850 WKNR, ESPN 1540 KNR2 and www.espncleveland.com. |
He has covered the Browns with distinction since 1984 and is one of 44 voters for the National Football League Hall of Fame. Email your “Hey Tony” questions to email@example.com
Follow Tony on Twitter @tonygrossi
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