Did The NFL Turn Over 500 Players Into Unwitting Junkies To Boost Profits?

It’s no secret that the NFL and its players will sometimes use ‘medicinal remedies” to help an injured player continue to contribute. In fact, it’s so common that football fans, on any given Sunday, can be heard yelling things like “shoot him up and get him back on the field!” anytime a player goes down with an injury. But most fans, like myself, probably bought the official narrative that suggested that teams were all about safety, disclosure and proper medical procedures.


NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell aka Doctor Feelgood?

After all, when talking about injured players in press conferences, coaches can often be heard painstakingly describing the care they are administering, emphasizing prudence and the player’s well being. Teams spend millions on physicians, trainers and facilities ensuring fans they are providing nothing but the best for their team in their perpetual quest for a Super Bowl ring.

But is all the lip service and public hyping of how much they really care about the well being of the players all just a bunch of bunk? One might wonder that after the nearly trillion dollar law suit involving concussions and the devastating impact they have had on players of the past. Impacts that includes disease, death, depression and suicide.  And in its wake comes another lawsuit, this one alleging the league being not just a little irresponsible, but downright depraved in the actual practice of rehabilitating players for games using dangerous and often undisclosed drugs.

Also alleged to be undisclosed were the actual injuries to players. Players like Super Bowl winning quarterback Jim McMahon who claims he had broken bones (including at least a broken neck and ankle) that were reported to him as much more minor injuries. From there he was given pain killers and anti inflammatory medications and shipped back on the field to play, none the wiser.

McMahon then says he became addicted to pain killers in efforts to ease his suffering from injuries that were never even disclosed to him.  Jim claims he was taking over 100 percocets a month, a dangerous narcotic pain killer.  And Jim wasn’t getting them on the street, but through the team. All without prescriptions written, records kept or any explanation of side effects or other dangers according to the papers filed n U.S. District Court in San Francisco on this week.

7 other players join McMahon for this initial filing including 2 more famous Bear players, Hall Of Famer Richard Dent and lineman Keith Van Horne.  Van Horne played an entire season on a broken leg and alleges he wasn’t told about the injury for five years, “during which time he was fed a constant diet of pills to deal with the pain.”

But these 8 former players are just the tip of the iceberg here as attorneys for the former ballers are seeking class action status and says that over 500 players are ready to sign on to the suit.

In addition to the financial compensation, the former players are also looking to protect their younger brethren by demanding testing and monitoring problem to deal with addictions and other issues.

Former offensive lineman Jeremy Newberry (49ers – 1998 to 2006)  describes lining up in the team locker room with other players to receive powerful anti-inflammatory injections in their buttocks shortly before kickoff. This might explain how Newberry played an entire season, playing every game while being unable to practice or workout at anytime during the season because of the great pain he was experiencing.  He now suffers from renal failure, high blood pressure and violent headaches, according to the lawsuit.

“The NFL knew of the debilitating effects of these drugs on all of its players and callously ignored the players’ long-term health in its obsession to return them to play,” Steven Silverman, attorney for the players, said. His Baltimore firm, Silverman, Thompson, Slutkin and White, also represents former National Hockey League players in a concussion-related lawsuit.

It is hard to imagine how the NFL was totally oblivious to this as there h ave been reports reflecting this problem, like with another Bear, Brian Urlacher back in 2012, for example. His painkiller use was brought to light in 2012 briefly before it was quickly pushed aside for other stories.

The lawsuit seeks class-action status for any former players who received narcotic painkillers, anti-inflammatories, local anesthetics, sleeping aids or other drugs without prescription, independent diagnosis, or warning about side effects or the dangers from mixing with other drugs. So much for  “player safety” being the highest priority in Roger Goodell’s NFL. OF course, that mantra has been called into question before as the league, and particularly Goodell push for longer seasons to increase revenues and refuse to let equipment manufacturers truly compete for their business.

Some might contend that these players, and all NFL players are a fortunate bunch who should not dare to complain. After all, they made a lot of money, more than most people, to play a game. A position most fans would trade places with in less than a heartbeat. But is that really accurate?



True, there is a lot of fame and sometimes fortune in being an NFL player. But not all players are stars and most “careers” in the NFL are over before they really even get going due to limited roster sizes, injuries and other factors. Also, there’s a huge difference between knowingly and properly being administering prescription medication and it being handed out like candy for Halloween, which  apparently came every Sunday, or even every day in the NFL according to these players.  Also, the glory of playing in the NFL also does come with higher than normal expenses that most fans either don’t know about or just don’t acknowledge. Expenses like paying agents and personal trainers among other things.  In addition to that,  most players make around the minimum or the contracts are heavily incentive based which means the players often don’t see the actual dollars the media report when deals are signed.  Very little money in the NFL is actually “guaranteed” in relation to the big numbers that are often reported.

Where this suit will conclude is anybody’s guess. It will probably be tied up in the courts for multiple years, just as other suits in the NFL and other professional sports have.  What the NFL is seemingly more concerned with is the long term impact of these legal actions and other bad press. Currently, the NFL is king among professional sports in America. Sunday (and sometimes Saturday, Thursday or Monday Night) football is more than a tradition around our great nation, it is a way of life. Football is now followed year round, not just in the fall as the combines, pro days, drafts and camps becoming full blown media events. But,  as a result of concussions, alleged irresponsible medical practices and other issues, will parents shy away from allowing their kids to play, thus depleting the pool of future players and fans 20 or 30 years from now?

Only time will tell.