Deion Sanders is far from the only present-day employee of the National Football League to have filed a workers’ compensation claim in California claiming head or brain injuries.
At least 43 present-day assistant coaches and front office personnel who previously played in the league have filed claims against their former teams in the last half-dozen years, records show. In addition, more than six television analysts for NFL Network, which is owned by the league, have made such claims.
Well over 90% of the claims allege serious head or brain trauma, The Times found in an analysis of filings from the California Division of Workers’ Compensation. A list of NFL employees with claims is here.
The NFL has worked hard to present a unified front on its growing brain injury problem, but the large number of workers compensation claims filed by its own employees serve as an important indication of how deeply the problem of brain injuries has penetrated the country’s most popular professional sport.
Officials from 23 different teams have claimed such injuries in California, which has served as a venue of last resort for players prevented from making filings in the states where they primarily played. Among them are Tampa Bay Buccaneers running backs coach Earnest Byner, Carolina Panthers wide receivers coach Ricky Proehl and the director of pro personnel for the St. Louis Rams, Ran Carthon.
Four Green Bay Packers employees have made claims – more than any other team -- including assistant head coach Winston Moss and director of pro personnel Alonzo Highsmith.
The broadcast booth at NFL Networks is also crowded with former players suffering injuries serious enough to seek compensation. The most prominent is Sanders, who the Times reported last week had made a claim including head injuries in 2010, yet later criticized ex-players who were suing the NFL in federal court over the concussion issue.
His claim is still pending, as are claims by Brian Baldinger, Bucky Brooks, Willie McGinest and Darren Sharper. Fellow on-air talent Michael Irvin and Marshall Faulk also filed claims that have been settled.
Irvin received a $249,000 cash settlement from the Dallas Cowboys and its insurer in 2011. That same year Faulk received an award worth at least $356,000, plus lifetime medical coverage for his injuries, state records show.
The claims are made against the individual’s former teams, rather than their current employers. As with all workers’ compensation cases, awards or settlements are the responsibility of the employer or its insurer, not taxpayers.
On Monday, a bill that would prevent most players from making claims in California was given final approval by the state Legislature and sent to Gov. Jerry Brown for review. He has until Oct. 13 to sign or veto the bill, AB 1309, which would bar athletes who played for out-of-state teams from filing claims here, as well as California-based athletes who played fewer than two seasons in the state.
It applies only to professional football, basketball, baseball, ice hockey and soccer players. Athletes from other sports, as well as workers in industries that perform some of their duties in California despite not being employed here – think trucking or airlines -- would not be affected.
Critics of the legislation worry that it will leave hundreds, if not thousands, of former players with serious medical conditions with no options to seek financial or medical help from the teams that employed them.
Many will have no option but to seek relief from state and federal programs such as Medicaid and Social Security Disability, they argue, putting a significant financial burden on taxpayers.