Friday, June 15, 2007
retirement plan as was intended from the 1960's forward. The NFL retirement
plan covers only 21% more people/players NFL 9,560 covered vs. MLB's 7,540,
while baseball's expenses are much higher, travel expenses for the far
longer season are drastically higher. In addition MLB average salaries are
higher at $2.8 million vs. NFL $1.25 million. MLB average pension benefits
are three times higher at $36,700 average vs. the NFL's $12,165 average
benefit. Baseball's gross income is approximately $4.3 billion (Forbes)
while the NFL's gross is over $6 billion. Baseball's total payroll is 1,200
x $2.8 million = $3 billion NFL's total payroll is 1,800 x $1.25 million=
$2.25 billion therefore MLB's total payroll is 33% higher than the NFL's
payroll. Baseball also supports a minor league system and youth programs.
Baseball continues to prosper on less income and higher expenses. There is
no excuse not to have the NFL
retirement benefits matching Major League Baseball's.
The NBA has just increased their pre 1965 pensions from (correction not
$2,000 and $3,600 press accounts differ so research is still ongoing) $200
per month per year to $360 per month per year.
Research and essay by Bernie Parrish
BACK UP COMPARISON RETIREMENT PLANS MLB VS NFL FROM LATEST FORM 5500 IRS
1) Total Pay out annual benefits MLB $88.9
Mil vs. NFL $43.33 Mil
2) Average annual benefit MLB
$36,700 vs. NFL $12,165
3) Monthly benefits paid (nearly) MLB $7 Mil
vs. NFL $3.6 Mil *****
4) 10 yr player at 62 gets MLB
$175,000 vs. NFL $32,000
5) Percent total salaries of benefits MLB 5.5%
vs. NFL 2.2%
6) Participants included (21% diff.) MLB 7,540
vs. NFL 9,560
7) Active players covered MLB
1,200 vs. NFL 1,800
8) Investment income MLB
$92.1 Mil vs. NFL $54.7 Mil
9) Assets available for benefits MLB $1.4
Bill vs. NFL $1.2 Bill ***
10) Current liabilities
MLB $2.3 Bill vs. NFL $1.04 Bill
11) Ave player salary
MLB $2.8 Mil vs. NFL $1.25 Mil
12) Median salary
MLB $1.1 Mil ** vs. NFL $631,675
13) Exec. Director Pay
MLB $1 Mil vs. NFL $7.74 Mil
14) Plan actuary fee
MLB $538,733 vs. NFL $492,951
15) Two year legal fees (2003+2004) MLB $309,726
vs. NFL $5.6 Mil
16) Number monthly benefits checks MLB 2,419
vs. NFL 2,864 or (3,500 Mellon Bank says)
17) Employer contributions MLB $109.6
Mil vs. NFL $67.9 Mil
18) Both Plans meet the minimum funding requirements of ERISA.
19) Both plans are defined benefit plans despite the misinformation
given out by the NFLPA. Both Plans mark form 5500 page 2 item 8(a)
Characteristics Code, as 1B and 1G exactly the same.
*If the NFL paid out $88.9 Mil as MLB does the average annual
benefit would be $25,400 instead of the sub-poverty level benefit of
· **Florida Marlins median salary $1.1 Mil, Yankees median
salary $5.8 Mil.
· ***Upshaw stated in a May 16, 2006 telephone conference call
that the "net assets available for benefits" had grown from the
$841,761,127 in the financial statement to over $1.2 billion now.
· **** MLB's investment income appears to be more than NFL's.
***** NFL's $3.6 million a month excludes disability payments
of approximately $19 million.
· NFL pays their Exec Director 7 times as much and gets back
less than half as much as MLB. Donald Fehr was paid $1,002,064 in 2004
Upshaw was paid $7,740,655 in 2006.
Total payroll MLB is $3 billion while the NFL's is only
$2.25 billion so baseball's total is 33% higher.
MLB pays 10 times more than the NFL for travel and they
support a minor league system the NFL does not.
· Pension plans too numerous to list here (including MLB, GE &
Congress) improve their benefits after beneficiaries start drawing benefits
for cost of living and other adjustments debunking another NFLPA-NFL
· MLB goes back and improves their benefits regularly. The NBA
improves their plan as well as they recently did for pre 1965 players
raising benefits from $200 benefit credits per month per year to $360
benefit credits per month per year, an 80% increase.
· The MLB numbers are now from 2004 and the NFL's from 2005 and
2006 so this comparison is still even worse than it appears here.
Wednesday, June 13, 2007
36 have been accused of spousal abuse
7 have been arrested for fraud
19 have been accused of writing bad checks
117 have directly or indirectly bankrupted at least 2 businesses
3 have done time for assault
71, repeat 71 cannot get a credit card due to bad credit
14 have been arrested on drug-related charges
8 have been arrested for shoplifting
21 currently are defendants in lawsuits, and
84 have been arrested for drunk driving in the last year
Can you guess which organization this is?
Give up yet? . . . Scroll down,
Neither, it's the 535 members of the United States Congress, the same group of Idiots that crank out hundreds of new laws each year designed to keep the rest of us in line.
You gotta pass this one on
Tuesday, April 17, 2007
My website (www.retiredplayers.us) is designed to communicate business opportunities, health & wellness info, best practices and other info that will empower them to make money with each other not off of each other! I had been working with Andre Collins and the NFLRPA to launch the site. They do not have a problem with me or my message.
We all have problems with writers like, you, Mr. Smith that write poorly researched articles. You now have the choice to retract your statement or meet me in court!
Yours in litigation,
David E. Garnett
Wednesday, January 03, 2007
WOODWARD, Pa. (AP) - Twenty years after Steve Smith helped Penn State
win the 1986 national title, the former fullback is fighting for his
Smith's body is failing him, ravaged by Lou Gehrig's disease.
Former college teammates are coming together to help the former Nittany
Lions captain, who went on to play for the Oakland Raiders.
''You talk to Marcus Allen, you talk to Bo Jackson, or any running
back that had him as a fullback, you never had to worry,'' former
Penn State teammate D.J. Dozier said. ''This man had his block.
Whatever he needed to do, he was going to get it done.''
Smith was one of four captains on the 1986 team - the last squad to
win coach Joe Paterno a national championship. College buddies use
words such as ''team player'' and ''led by example'' to
describe his style.
That's why the three other captains from that squad - quarterback
John Shaffer, linebacker and Frewsburg native Shane Conlan and
defensive lineman Bob White - traveled to a lodge in rural Woodward
one recent morning to sign a lithograph depicting a scene from the
tense 14-10 win over Miami in the Fiesta Bowl that secured Penn
State's 1986 title.
Dozier, who ran behind Smith's blocks, organized the effort. He says
a portion of the profits will go to Smith's family to help pay
''He was a hard, hard worker,'' Shaffer said of Smith. ''He
was unbelievably talented, able to do whatever needed to help the team
Now Smith needs help to take care of his most basic needs.
Lou Gehrig's disease is a degenerative nerve disease, also known as
amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, or ALS, which gradually destroys the
ability to control movement. Typically, patients lose their ability to
move or speak, but their minds remain unaffected.
According to the federal National Institutes of Health, most ALS
patients die from respiratory failure within 5 years of the onset of
symptoms, though about 10 percent of ALS patients survive 10 years or
Reliant on a ventilator, Smith cannot talk. He has been fed formula
through a feeding tube since May. He can't leave home, given all the
''Despite the situation, he's holding steady,'' said his
wife, Chie Smith, who was reached at the couple's home in Richardson,
''His spirits are much better than his body is,'' she said.
Smith pounded away at opposing defenses while at Penn State from
1983-86, running for 1,246 yards and 11 touchdowns. Fullbacks back then
ran the ball more often than in today's multiple receiver-focused
''It was a great tandem on the field,'' Dozier said.
Pro scouts noticed. The Raiders drafted him in the third round of the
1987 draft and he spent much of his time in silver and black blocking
for the talented tailback tandem of Allen and Jackson.
Chie, then an Oakland Raiders cheerleader, noticed Steve, too. They
fell in love and got married on Dec. 8, 1989.
Smith moved to Seattle in 1994, where he played two seasons for the
Seahawks before a back injury cut short his career, and he retired in
the summer of 1996.
His forte was blocking, though Smith ended his NFL career with 1,627
yards and nine touchdowns on 429 carries. He also caught 131 passes for
1,250 yards and 13 touchdowns.
''It was always fun going up against him,'' said Conlan, a Penn
State linebacker who played for the Buffalo Bills. ''He was always
trying to get better.''
Smith's first diagnosis came in July 2002. A second opinion a month
later, and a finally a third opinion _ on Sept. 11, 2002 _ confirmed
their initial fears: He had Lou Gehrig's disease.
Weighing 260 pounds at the time of his initial ALS diagnosis, Smith had
lost 100 pounds by this past May. Chie Smith said there was concern her
husband wasn't getting enough nutrition, so he was put on a feeding
tube, from which most of his nutrition now comes. That has helped, and
Smith has regained 15 pounds.
His days are spent on a recliner or on a hospital bed at the house.
''Pretty much, the word would be he is 'paralyzed' from
illness,'' Chie Smith said.
Smith's wife cares for him full time. There are also two teenage
children to raise _ 16-year-old Dante and 15-year-old Jazmin _ and ALS
groups have said it takes as much as $250,000 a year to care for a
Dozier, a partner in the Cambridge Sports marketing company he helped
start in March, was approached by others at the firm to take part in a
project to create artwork to remember the 1986 season. He soon got to
thinking the venture could help Smith. A percentage of profits from the
$399 lithographs will go to the former fullback.
One thing hasn't changed - Smith's smile. Chie is sure her
husband's mind is alive and well, even if he cannot speak. He still
follows Penn State football.
''He watches them all,'' Chie Smith said. ''I can usually
just tell from his expressions, watching him enjoying the game.''
David E. Garnett
iAM Solutions, LLC
703.926-9134 - mobile
Tuesday, January 02, 2007
By Jason Cole, Yahoo! Sports
Atlanta Falcons left tackle Wayne Gandy is about to finish his 13th season, continuing one of the most consistent and dependable careers in the league. Although 35, Gandy is still planning to play two or three more seasons. He's played well enough this season that the goal seems within reach.
But the most intriguing fact about Gandy is not that he has only missed one start in his career because of injury. That impressive mark, which has survived through a shoulder injury that forced Gandy to sleep in a chair for three months, is trumped by his impressive perspective of the game.
In particular, Gandy has a pretty interesting take on why black quarterbacks such as current teammate Michael Vick undergo so much public scrutiny. Gandy has watched teammates – Vick, Aaron Brooks in New Orleans, Kordell Stewart in Pittsburgh, Tony Banks in St. Louis and Dameyune Craig at Auburn – operate under a different set of standards.
Gandy, who could have a post-football future in anything from broadcast to working as a team executive, has seen the same situation play out from team to team.
"When fans and coaches see a black quarterback, it's automatic that they expect to see a guy who is more athletic," Gandy said. "So what happens when you get around the goal line or you get in those situations where most quarterbacks are taught to throw it away or get rid of the ball for a short gain if the play breaks down? The black quarterback is told, 'Do something, make a big play.'
"That's where you see a lot of Michael's sacks come from. He's supposed to make something happen in a situation where it's probably not going to work. You see where the coaches and fans are expecting that, but it's not really teaching him the right way to play.
"It's all about the tutelage they get from the time they're in college on. I saw that with Dameyune Craig. He was told, 'If your first read isn't there, take off and run.' Do you think that anyone ever told Peyton Manning or Tom Brady to do that? Again, it's about the tutelage they get."
Over the years, Vick, Brooks and Daunte Culpepper have consistently been sacked more than the likes of Manning and Brady. Vick has been sacked 39 times this season – one more combined than Brady (24) and Manning (14) – which is just under three per game. That's an odd number for someone who's seemingly hard to catch.
Furthermore, mobile quarterbacks such as Vick, Brooks and Culpepper have consistently had worse interception rates than Manning and Brady.
To Vick's credit, he is showing some progress this season. He has 19 touchdown passes, putting him one short of his first 20-touchdown season of his six-year career. Also, Vick's TD-interception ratio of 19-11 is the second best of his career to the 16-8 mark he had in his second season, which was also his first as a starter.
Vick has done that while also setting an NFL record for rushing yards (990) by a quarterback. He is a virtual lock to surpass 1,000 yards rushing and is currently averaging a stunning 8.5 yards per carry, meaning that Vick also appears to be picking the optimal times to take off.
Is that progress enough for a player of Vick's caliber? No, but the problem may be that he's being asked to do too much. Unlike Manning, for instance, Vick has played in an offense that has constantly changed. He began his career under Dan Reeves. Now, under coach Jim Mora, the offense has morphed from allowing Vick to be a runner to trying to rein him in as a passer to again being a more freelance offense.
Manning, by comparison, has played in only one offense with the same offensive coordinator (Tom Moore) his entire career. Moreover, Manning has played while surrounded by great skill players the entire time. The Falcons have struggled to find consistent receivers, although a significant share of the burden falls on Vick.
"The offense here has been different over the years," said Gandy, who was acquired by the Falcons via trade in the offseason. "Sometimes they've tried to make Michael work with a certain offense and sometimes they've tried to make the offense work to his skills. I think we've gotten back to making it work around his skills this year and he's made progress."
Gandy said one of the biggest problems the Falcons have had in running a conventional offense is that the timing is always off because Vick sets up so quickly. In most offenses, by the time the quarterback sets up on a standard three-step drop, the wide receiver is coming out of his break, ready to get open. With Vick, the receivers are still in their patterns. The problem impacts the entire timing of the offense, leading to further problems. On top of that, the Falcons wide receivers have had way too many drops this season.
"I see why people get on Michael, but there have been stretches where our receivers haven't made the catches. We had a lot of drops and the receivers have to help him out," Gandy said.
This season, Gandy has been a stalwart on
He was forced to sleep in a chair for three months because lying down would allow the shoulder to pop out of place and put him in constant pain. Sleeping in a chair was about as restful as living upstairs from a bar.
"I saw every hour of the day for those three months," Gandy said. "I'd wake up at 3:01 [a.m.], go back to sleep. Then it was 4:17, then 5:08 … Yeah, I fell asleep in meetings all the time because I could never get a good night's sleep. I just told them what was going on. The Steelers were good to me and told me that if it got to be too much, they'd put me on [injured reserve]."
Gandy never took them up on the offer. He'd tough it out during games. By halftime, the pain medication he took would wear off and he'd play through pain that brought tears to his eyes.
"I had to go to the dentist at one point and they put me in the chair laying down, but I had to have them let me up every five minutes because the pain was too much in my shoulder. I'd be in tears from the pain," Gandy said.
Still, Gandy showed up.
"That's something I'm extremely proud of over my career," Gandy said. "Everybody is always looking for the most talented guys they can find and there's nothing wrong with that. But what good are you if you're talented and you get hurt a lot. There's a value to being dependable. The team knows you're always going to be there, that you're going to show up and play and give them everything you can. That's important."
PRO BOWL MUSINGS
From a statistical standpoint, it's hard to argue. Manning, Palmer and Rivers all had superior numbers. But numbers don't serve as a proper measure for Brady, who is not surrounded by anything close to the type of talent that the other three have right now.
Or as Dolphins Pro Bowl linebacker Zach Thomas said: "Do you have to game plan for a guy? I don't care about stats. Stats don't tell the whole story. What really matters is if you have to prepare for a guy. You look at Tom Brady, he's a Pro Bowler. When we face
"Some guys might have more yards or more touchdown passes, but Brady is better than those guys. It's like on defense. You can have a lot of tackles if you're on a bad run defense because you're on the field so much."
SHULA TAKES SHOT
"I think it's time to evaluate the evaluators," said the elder Shula, who won more games than anyone in NFL history while coaching 33 years with Baltimore and
While that comment is obviously tinged with emotion, it's hard to argue with Shula.
Saban has said consistently that he will not leave the Dolphins. However, there was concern on his part recently about a story regarding a possible sale of the team by owner Wayne Huizenga to
At least not at this point. Huizenga has said numerous times that he will listen to any offers for the team and the stadium (which he also owns). The price for the entire operation is expected to be well north of $1 billion.
The letters detail the high level of disrepair for the stadium. It includes talk about how a large speaker broke off its mounting after rust developed, how cement structures are beginning to crumble and how a one-ton lighting fixture in the parking lot fell at one point. All of the instances could have caused significant injury.
Furthermore, the article pointed out that the city spent only $3 million in repairs to the stadium last season, far from enough to maintain it properly. The 49ers also repeatedly used the word "negligence" in referring to the care of the stadium.
Of course, it's obvious where that language is going if ever there were to be an accident that caused injury because of deterioration of the stadium.
But the bigger point is that as bad as the article made
Thus, while many citizens may decry the idea of investing in stadiums where private enterprises play, they may be playing with a much bigger problem if current stadiums aren't maintained or replaced.
THIS AND THAT
· Dallas Cowboys wide receiver Terrell Owens' appeal of his $35,000 fine for spitting on Atlanta cornerback De Angelo Hall last week is not expected to be heard until after the season, according to an NFL source. The hearing's delay is a product of the league's busy calendar this time of year.
· Chargers quarterback Philip Rivers made the Pro Bowl in his first season as a starter and third year in the league. Although Rivers has three years remaining on his contract after this season, the Chargers are already talking about extending the contract. Don't expect a lot to happen, but the Chargers could be in an interesting situation after the 2009 season. Not only will Rivers' contract be up, so will left tackle Marcus McNeils. McNeil, a second-round pick, has outplayed No. 4 overall pick D'Brickashaw Ferguson of the Jets as the top rookie tackle in a very good season for first-year players.
· It's appearing more and more that the Tennessee Titans will keep coach Jeff Fisher, picking up the option year on his contract. Word around the Titans is that general manager Floyd Reese, who is in the final year of his contract and has feuded with Fisher for years, is in the process of hiring an agent to negotiate his next contract. That would be a clear indication that Reese is about to leave. The one catch with the Titans is that there's some concern that Fisher and rookie quarterback Vince Young have a somewhat strained relationship. Young took note when defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz yelled at offensive coordinator Norm Chow after the victory over
· Speaking of Schwartz, count him among a list of dark-horse candidates for a head coaching job this season. Prior to the rebuilding stage, when the Titans had to unload veterans because of salary cap reasons, Schwartz' defenses consistently ranked among the best in the league. This season, Schwartz kept together a mediocre unit after it allowed more than 40 points twice in the first half of the season and also had to deal with the Albert Haynesworth controversy. The most talented defender the Titans have is cornerback Pacman Jones, who also happens to be their most erratic. In short, kudos to Schwartz.
· Chargers team president Jim Steeg, who formerly was the lead man with the NFL for years in terms of planning the Super Bowl, has taken to wearing a pair of "lucky" shoes this season. Steeg said he has had the shoes for more than 40 years and wore them on the day of the Super Bowl each year. He started wearing them this year for
Sunday, December 24, 2006
Saturday, December 23, 2006
PALO ALTO, Calif. - Six weeks ago, Bill Walsh was near death. He
couldn't eat and barely had the strength to speak. Leukemia had ravaged
his body and left him hospitalized at Stanford University Medical
Center, where doctors urgently filled him with chemotherapy drugs to
fight the cancer and antibiotics to control his raging infections.
Walsh, 75, who coached the San Francisco 49ers to three Super Bowl
championships from 1979 through '89, has been battling the disease
since being diagnosed in 2004. It is an illness he disclosed only last
In early November, he was convinced his life was close to an end.
"I was really down," he said. "The doctors were talking in terms of
days or weeks."
But his cancer is unpredictable, and he has stabilized and improved in
recent weeks. He still spends three days a week at the hospital
receiving intravenous treatments, and wears a catheter implanted in his
forearm for injections. He is pale and not as sturdy as he was a few
years ago, yet he hasn't allowed the disease to dominate his life.
In a wide-ranging discussion with the Los Angeles Times this week on
the Stanford campus where he still maintains an office, Walsh talked
about his legendary career, his triumphs and regrets, his feelings
about today's NFL, how a fellow Hall of Fame coach tried to keep him
out of the league, and the difficulty of confronting his own mortality.
Asked if he fears dying, Walsh said he doesn't, "but the last thing you
want when you're dying is to be suffering. I've discussed that with my
physicians. ... I just don't want to cling to some form of life."
The disease and treatment have sapped Walsh's energy, so much so that
when he stands he often seeks something to lean against. And while his
voice is weaker than in the past, his mental energy is undiminished.
His greatest worry throughout the ordeal, he said, has been the
well-being of his wife, Geri, who suffered a major stroke seven years
ago. In recent weeks, Walsh and their children, Craig and Elizabeth,
have planned out the details of her care in case he's not around. More
than anything, that has helped put his mind at ease.
"Once that was resolved," Walsh said, "then I sort of resolved in my
mind to whatever happens is certainly acceptable to me. I've lived a
good life. A lot of wear and tear, a lot of disappointment in my life,
but now that it's in my last cycle, I feel OK about it."
On his best days, he holds out hope he'll one day return to the golf
course or spend some time at his beach house near Monterey. On most
days, he's simply happy to be alive.
The interview was conducted in a conference room in the Stanford
athletic department, a place Walsh knows well. Twice the school's head
football coach, Walsh served as interim athletic director last year. He
also had significant say in this week's hiring of Jim Harbaugh as new
In the NFL, what was once a Walsh coaching tree of disciples is now
closer to a forest. Among those who worked under him: Mike Shanahan,
Mike Holmgren, Andy Reid, Tony Dungy, Marvin Lewis, George Seifert,
Dennis Green, Ray Rhodes, Brian Billick and Jon Gruden. A coaches who's
who. But his reach extends well beyond that.
"You can go through this league and almost every corner of every team
is touched by Bill Walsh," said Eddie DeBartolo, former 49ers owner.
"I'm talking about head coaches to coordinators to sons to cousins. I
tried to sit down and do his family tree of football once and I just
quit. No one, and I mean no one has put a mark and touched pro football
in the way that Bill Walsh has. Calling him an icon isn't even doing
In late October, DeBartolo flew across the country to have lunch with
Walsh at his Woodside home. They sat on his deck, opened a bottle of
wine and reminisced about their three decades together.
Walsh's cellphone seldom stops ringing. His secretary, Jane Walsh,
who's not related to him but has worked with him for 16 years, is
constantly juggling his schedule to fit everyone in. Bill Walsh is the
type who has a hard time saying no to anyone. Now, he's feeling the
love and admiration pour in.
"Some of the letters I've gotten from some of my former players are
tear-jerking," he said. "Some of them are from former Stanford players
that I coached when I was here, NFL players, guys that weren't the
logical guys to
David E. Garnett
iAM Solutions, LLC
703.926-9134 - mobile
Wednesday, December 20, 2006
Sent: Dec 19, 2006 9:45 AM
Subject: Life after football | Fumbling for identity
By Greg Bishop
Seattle Times staff reporter
December 18, 2006
Ken Ruettgers' football funeral unfolded before his eyes. The Green Bay
Packers, his teammates for 12 seasons, were in the Super Bowl. He sat
in the stands, 34 and recently retired. The stadium swelled to
capacity. He felt empty and removed.
His picture flashed across the screen at halftime, same as every player
who retired or passed since the last Super Bowl. So Ken Ruettgers
turned his attention toward Ken Ruettgers. The man in the picture, the
football player, smiled. The man in the stands, the former football
player, waved goodbye and wondered: Who am I?
"It felt like a eulogy," Ruettgers says. "My teammates were in the land
of the living, and I was with the living dead. Of course I wanted them
to win. But a part of me didn't want them to win without me."
Ruettgers assumed that he alone suffered from transition torture, the
crisis evoked from losing an identity forged for decades on the
football field. Then Tom Neville, a former teammate suffering from
depression, broke out of a psychiatric ward and into an apartment
manager's office in California. He ended up dead, shot in a police
Other teammates were going through divorces, bankruptcy, addicted to
painkillers, alcohol or drugs. He remembered them as warriors, fearless
and famous and indestructible. And so many of them were failing.
He watched the tears pour out of athletes at news conferences
announcing their retirements. Emmitt Smith. Troy Aikman. Andre Agassi.
All grieving what Ruettgers calls "identity foreclosure."
The concept led Ruettgers to create an organization called "Games Over"
to help athletes deal with transition. He studies, talks and writes
about lost identity. He found one common denominator in that work -
to some degree, they all go through it.
Retired offensive linemen struggle with an old question posed by Norm
Evans, who played for the Houston Oilers, the Miami Dolphins and the
If you are what you do - and you don't - who are you?
"It's like you're an adult with an umbilical cord in your hand, walking
around and looking for a place to plug it in," Evans says. "And there's
nobody there to help you. It's like, 'Hey, you're an adult, you should
figure this out for yourself.' When, in a lot of ways, guys are
Ruettgers views the NFL as a high-school locker room extended into
adulthood. The players are technically adults, only more enabled and
entitled. He compares them to lions raised in the San Diego Zoo, then
suddenly dropped back into Africa at retirement.
He cites one study that found 90 percent of elite athletes look forward
to retirement. What the study left out, Ruettgers says, is they look
forward to retiring to utopia after a 20-year career filled with Pro
Bowls and Super Bowls. Then they get there. Bills need to be paid.
Wives and kids have needs. And life goes on, whether they're ready or
These are the trials of transition.
Players retire at the age most peers are climbing the corporate ladder.
Having already reached one pinnacle themselves, they are weary of
starting from the bottom or scared of failing at something new. John
Michels, former Packers offensive lineman, compares it to going from
CEO of your personal athletic corporation to starting over in the
Many lack basic qualifications outside of football. One study conducted
by the NFL Players Association found that 70 percent of current players
have not completed their college educations. Worse yet, when Art Kuehn
played for the Seahawks from 1976 to '82, two of his teammates couldn't
"Just because you can push around a 300-pounder doesn't mean you're
going to figure out the rest of it," says Blair Bush, a retired NFL
veteran who lives in Seattle. "That qualifies you to be a bouncer is
Former players miss the locker room, miss the friendships and the
structure. Jim Sweeney, a 16-year veteran who retired in 1999, says
players go from having 52 best friends to seeing them occasionally. He
calls the camaraderie an "addiction," the transition a "tug of war."
Some are tugged right back into the locker room. The faces are the
same, but the vibe changes after retirement. They hang around until
something clicks, until they understand - they aren't a part of it
"It's just not the same," says Grant Feasel, who played for the
Seahawks from 1987 to '93. "It's like the 'Wild Kingdom,' where the
predator gets one of the gazelles and the herd just keeps on running."
Gone is the structure that dominated their lives. The days planned to
the minute. The satisfaction of receiving a grade each Sunday, a finite
and immediate evaluation.
"Imagine if every day of your life as a grown-up you were handed an
itinerary," says Ed Cunningham, retired lineman and current
broadcaster. "Then one day you walk into the real world and have to set
your own alarm, make your own résumé, find your own job."
Sure, the money helps - if it's still around. When Reggie McKenzie
was director of player programs for the Seahawks, he knew one player
who didn't realize until after he retired that he owned eight cars
purchased by his agent and doled out to women he never met.
When McKenzie went into the locker room to urge Seahawks to sign up for
a 401(k) investment program - the league matched $4,500 and players
were eligible to put in $13,000 annually - they literally ran from
Bill Curry felt as prepared as possible for his transition. He held a
diploma from Georgia Tech, worked every offseason for practical
experience and played one season after a horrific knee injury, bracing
himself for the next phase.
Instead, he went into a tailspin. He suffered from a low-grade
depression sparked, in part, by the 1974 strike during his tenure as
president of the Players Association. He spent too much time wallowing
and eating, not enough time working out.
One day he found himself sitting in a bar, watching Carlton Fisk smack
a home run off the foul pole in the World Series. Curry made up his
mind right there. Time to get in shape. He woke up the next morning,
went running and fell to his knees after eight minutes, vomiting. He
heard a voice coming from within.
"You know, this is going to kill you."
Curry pulled his life together. He started distance running, went into
coaching and scouting, later analyzing football.
His experience is typical. The first two years of transition are the
Players are coded with immediacy DNA, and their jobs depend on staying
in the moment, concentrating from one play to the next. When they're
running down kickoffs, they can't bother with future transitions - or
they will reach those transitions a whole lot sooner.
Ruettgers coaches high-school football in his spare time. During a
recent practice, another coach told a receiver to bounce up after a big
hit, to never let them see him hurting.
"I chuckled to myself," Ruettgers says, "because that's how, as
athletes, we're trained up. To not admit weakness, to suck it up and
endure. So that keeps a lot of guys from seeking help and support."
What follows: depression and chemical dependency.
The Center for the Study of Retired Athletes collected data on more
than 2,800 retired players. It found that about one in 10 were
diagnosed with clinical depression and nearly half were being treated
with anti-depressants. It also found a higher number of clinically
depressed players between age 35 and 45 - the range in which many of
Several describe football as a coping mechanism. When it's gone, they
turn that rage inward - or find another way to cope.
Alcohol, cocaine and marijuana kept Bob Newton from reaching his
All-Pro potential in 11 seasons with the Seahawks and Chicago Bears.
Retirement only accelerated his spiral into more drugs and more
alcohol, and, eventually, into treatment.
Now a counselor at the Betty Ford Clinic, Newton estimates 10 percent
of NFL players suffer from the same chemical dependency that led to his
failed marriage and five arrests for driving under the influence. He
also says that excessive drinking behavior remains acceptable in the
Newton checked into a treatment center in Monroe in July 1983, shortly
after he retired. That same day, the Seahawks checked into training
The fear of failure works as a motivator in sports and a hindrance in
business. Football is zero-sum. Business is cost-benefit.
Ruettgers compares the first two years of transition to the first days
spent working out. The hardest part, always, remains the first step in
His came after acquiring an MBA and a real-estate license, when
Ruettgers took an entry-level job with a publishing company in Oregon.
He caught on quickly, immersing himself in software skills and author
relations the same way he immersed himself in game plans. The company
soon promoted him to editorial director.
"Which is pretty typical for athletes," Ruettgers says. "But you don't
know that you can do it. And you don't how to do it, how to apply it,
until you're in it. One of my biggest fears was, 'Do I have what it
The key: funneling passion somewhere else. Kuehn tried memorabilia and
sales before he ended up at a job fair in Tacoma, teaching certificate
in hand. He's now an assistant principal at Interlake High School in
McKenzie ran into Hall of Famer Merlin Olsen at Shea Stadium in New
York shortly after he retired. McKenzie asked him about transitioning.
Olsen told him, "If you can walk out of one door into another, then the
transition is a whole lot easier." So McKenzie worked in a variety of
jobs for the Seahawks, then went into business for himself and expanded
his successful youth foundation in Detroit.
Retired NFL veteran Curt Marsh started by purchasing a vending-machine
business. It made money but left him unfulfilled. He even tried
creating a slogan, but when, "Don't take candy from strangers, buy it
from me," was the best he could come up with, he wisely shifted gears.
Marsh became a world-champion disabled weightlifter, a supervisor for
the city of Everett and an accomplished public speaker. Passion found.
"If you have that kind of personality, and you aren't able to find it
somewhere else, you'll be very passionately depressed," Marsh says.
"You don't lose the passion, it just goes somewhere."
Michels didn't worry about working right away. Instead, he set a
short-term goal to prove that life existed outside football. He
obtained his pilot's license in a month, flying every day in a
four-seat Cessna. Flying provided the same sense of accomplishment.
"That was when the lightbulb went on," Michels says. "That helped me
realize what I needed to do was find a new passion."
Norm Evans played from 1965 to '78, during an era when players worked
during college and the NFL offseason. He slaved at a construction site
and in a refinery. He drove a bread truck and washed cars and mowed
lawns. He went on a speaking tour after the Dolphins finished the 1972
season undefeated. He started a publishing company.
He even prepped beef cattle with a hose and soap and water while in
"Black Angus," Evans says. "This guy would bring them to a show in
Texas. It's February, it's freezing, and I'm giving these cows a bath
for a buck an hour. I'd do anything I could to make a few bucks."
Evans currently works for Pro Athletes Outreach in Issaquah, teaching
players to become role models. Players in his era looked at football as
a head start. Even a first-round pick like Marsh, who played from 1981
to '86, never made a million dollars in his career.
Players in today's NFL don't need to worry about making money in the
offseason. They don't really have an offseason. The assumption, then,
is that their transition will be easier. But retired players believe
the opposite. Current players are less ready for the real world, more
sheltered and less experienced. Not that any retired players feel sorry
"Guys work 10 months out of the year playing football," McKenzie says.
"They don't have an opportunity to prepare themselves for life after
football. You're going to see a bigger slide. And the slide will be
bigger because of the dollars."
Like this: A former teammate called Cunningham, who retired in 1996, in
a panic. He had been out of the game for eight months and woke up, 34
years old, sobbing, unsure. Another teammate started smoking crack and
ended up in jail.
"Most guys leave the game and struggle and flounder," Michels says.
"You read over and over about guys who became addicted to drugs,
bankrupt. They need guidance. You come from this career where you are
catered to, and you're thrown in the world where nothing is given to
you, people don't care about you anymore."
Especially offensive linemen, the indistinguishable and anonymous
brutes up front. They don't retire with the name recognition of
quarterbacks or running backs or wide receivers. They retire large and
"My knee [injury] was more than a physical problem," Michels said. "My
dreams were attached to it. Guys need to be told that it's OK to grieve
Retired offensive linemen are consumed by the torture of transition,
the crisis of identity. They talk and think about the game more than
they want to, more than they said they would. They are not alone. Ask
any retired athlete.
Ruettgers' advice? Focus on the three M's - money, marriage and
mission. Go back to school, finish diploma requirements or pursue an
advanced degree. Leaf through business cards accumulated during a
playing career. Go to marriage counseling.
"Most retirements - what do you do?" Ruettgers asks. "You get a gold
watch, go on vacations, live the golden years. These guys have their
whole lives in front of them."
They have football funerals to attend. Marriages to fix. Identities to
These are the trials of transition.
Copyright © 2006 The Seattle Times Company
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David E. Garnett
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