Dave Pear's story abridged from The Seattle Times (2-3-08) :
Pear says Raiders doctors never acknowledged the severity of the injury, advising him to rest while plying him with Percodan and needles to deaden pain and reduce swelling. The Raiders cut Pear during training camp the summer after the Super Bowl, saying he seemed to have lost his desire for the game. At his own expense, an out-of-work Pear underwent an operation at Stanford Medical Center that December. Doctors diagnosed his injury as a cervical herniated disk. Surgeons used a special drill to bore through the calcified bone.
Pear first applied for NFL disability benefits in 1983. A six-member retirement board split on the case — union trustees voting in favor of granting the benefit, management voting against. An arbitrator cast the deciding denial. Pear says the final decision should have been made by a physician not an arbitrator, and after repeated attempts, he finally got NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell on the phone to make him listen to his grievance.
In 1995, Pear applied for disability again, this time under a different standard that grants benefits if a player can show his football-related injury is permanently debilitating. The retirement board ruled Pear was healthy enough to perform sedentary work and denied the claim. Believing he never would receive disability benefits from the league, he applied for the NFL's early-retirement benefit at age 45, for which he now receives a monthly check of around $600. Had Pear waited to take his pension until this year, when he turns 55, the check would be much fatter.
But Pear is not in financial crisis. His wife works, their children chip in, and Pear has begun receiving a Social Security disability benefit of about $2,000 a month.
Pear says this fight is not about him. What it is about, he and other retired players say, is that the NFL and union's standard for awarding disability benefits is ridiculously high, and that benefits too often get denied on technicalities. They argue the union cares only about padding a billion-dollar pension and disability fund that exclusively benefits current NFL players — players who earn an average salary of $1.4 million a year. Making that kind of money, the old guard argues, current players can afford to care less about how they'll manage when their playing days are done.
I would say that unless these players came forward, no one would even know about these misdeeds. In Febuary 2008, Dave Pear launched a blog with news and updates on retired NFL players, you can view it at: Dave Pear’s Official Blog
Written by Monte Poole can be reached at (510) 208-6461 or by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.The NFL's neglectful treatment of its veterans is not unlike the government's treatment of war veterans.
See Herb Adderly, the fabulous defensive back from Vince Lombardi's Green Bay Packers, the first great team of the Super Bowl era. Herb, 68, played 12 years, and he hurts. Some of his agony comes fromseeing his monthly pension check, recently bumped from $126.85 to $179. Look at Willie Wood, the splendid safety from those Packers. He's 71, wheelchair-bound, living in a nursing home and saddled with debt. Rest your eyes upon Leroy Kelly, who allowed the Cleveland Browns to survive the retirement of Jim Brown. Kelly, 65, gets around OK — and he has to. His monthly pension is $162, so he hustles the land, chasing whatever he can get from card shows and other celebrity appearance fees. Over there, that's John Mackey, who in 1972 retired as the best tight end ever seen. He also was a tireless worker on behalf of players. Big John, now 66, has a hard time remembering his name.
And these four are in the Hall of Fame, the NFL's royal family.
What about the others? The journeymen? They're in the basement of this frigid home.
There's Donnie Green, the big tackle who blocked for O. J. Simpson during his great years in Buffalo. He now gets $400 per month and has become familiar with life in a homeless shelter.
And there's Dave Pear, who spent most of his career with bad teams in Tampa Bay but retired a Raider, before his 30th birthday. His last game was Oakland's win over Philadelphia in Super Bowl XV.
Pear had injured his spine but took painkillers and played anyway. He has since endured seven surgeries. Now 54, he needs a cane to get around. Takes 38 pills a day. His monthly pension check: $606.
His disability check? Zero. According to the NFL, he doesn't qualify.
If this isn't enough to "make it rain" in sorrow, shouldn't it cause a shower of outrage?
Not from the players union, where executive director Gene Upshaw says the NFL has not a dollar to spare.
Not from the league itself, which is not unwilling to unleash its ferocious legal dogs for court battles with retired players.
Delay, deny and hope they die. That's the bitter taunt directed toward the NFL by those advocating more assistance for veterans.
There's your outrage. This week, as the NFL threw money all over the Phoenix area, putting its sponsorship all over the desert, throwing lavish parties with shrimp as big as boxing gloves, retired players organized four days of unsanctioned activities.
They are going to be present, even if the league — and, according to some, the active players — would prefer invisibility.
There is the Gridiron Greats Assistance Fund, a nonprofit group lending a hand to needy former players, Retired Players for Justice, and Fourth & Goal — all of which seek to improve aid to NFL retirees, especially those who retired before 1993.