When the estate of Dave Duerson recently sued the NFL for allegedly concealing the potential consequences of concussions, the most obvious difference between Duerson and the hundreds of other former players making similar claims is that Duerson contends, through his estate, that the chronic trauma caused him to commit suicide. But there’s another significant difference between Duerson and other former players who have sued the league.
Duerson once assessed player disability claims, and Duerson repeatedly took the position that there is no connection between concussions and long-term cognitive problems.
“Duerson told me my long-term effects were from an act of God, not football, and now his family’s suing claiming something he fought against?” former NFL lineman Brent Boyd tells David Haugh of the Chicago Tribune. “The Duersons are, in effect, suing their own husband and father for his corrupt practices as a voting member of the NFL disability board.” Haugh also points out that Duerson once questioned the link between head injuries and health consequences in testimony before the Senate Commerce Committee.
More recently, in the wake of a series of helmet hits on October 17, 2010 and less than four months before his death, Duerson bemoaned the fact that the league was changing the game in the name of safety. “The game is protected [and] I’m pissed off today,” Duerson said in a radio interview. “The Big Hit has been told to turn in his pads and jockstrap. I understand they don’t want us using helmets as a weapon but this thing about devastating hits, come on. If I was playing today I certainly would have taken my shots. With the way they changed this game, now we can’t give [receivers] a big blow. That’s what this game was built on.”
As Duerson’s case ultimately proves, the NFL must reduce those big hits on which the game was built. Otherwise, the men who delivered and absorbed the punishment will eventually try to tear it down, in court.