As I enter my fifth year as a retired NFL player, I am faced with the unfortunate reality that my NFL healthcare coverage will be terminated in less than a year. While the majority of high-profile jobs in America offer their retirees robust healthcare packages and retirement plans, the National Football League does the opposite. The large majority of NFL players leave the game with life-lingering injuries and ailments.
This is certainly an issue that I would fight for as a players association, rather than an extra percentage point in revenue. In what other profession in America can you sign a contract, get hurt on the job, and then instantly lose the majority of your salary? In the NFL, this is known as a split contract. Another scenario is known as an injury grievance. Both scenarios leave the players with only a portion of that year's salary, with no other recourse for the teams or the league.
As an owner paying my players the majority of the revenue, I definitely would not want to guarantee any portion of a contract, nor would I want to give a player his salary if he could not perform. If the players union focused its efforts on getting a minimum portion of players contract guaranteed (1 or 2 years), and took less money on the revenue side, the outcome would be much more beneficial for the league.
Players would then not be rushed back on the field early from injury and the owners would be incentivized to increase roster sizes, which would increase the average length of an NFL career (currently less than 3.5 years). Further, the proposed extension of the season to 18 games would be more well-received, and concussions and other long-term injuries would have a chance to be better treated.
Let’s bring some common sense to the labor dispute and give some dignity back to the players, owners and teams.
— Jack Brewer is a former Giants/Vikings/Cardinals/Eagles player, who attended Harvard Business School while still in the NFL. He went on to work as a private wealth manager at Merrill Lynch, post-NFL and later started his own firm, a sports marketing company.