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Jul
20
2008

Will Nick Kaczur go to jail?

340x.jpgI suppose this could be another anti-Patriots post and I could lambast the Patriots for harboring another drug infused reprobate, but frequenters of the Brigade will recognize that I have never really treated the Pats this way.  Despite being my squad's arch-nemesis, I have never hidden the fact that there are a lot of things I like about that football team.  I think they have their share of problem people.  I think Rodney Harrison IS a filthy player, and his excuse of playing till the whistle is crap.  He is a late hitter, a headhunter, and a jackass and his ability to explain away his HGH admission as an act for "accelerating the healing process from injuries" and saying that it was "never to gain a competitive edge" is crap.  Healing from injuries faster IS a competitive edge.  Anyway, the Pats have cheated. 

Regardless of my disdain for the likes of Harrison, this latest story about Nick Kaczur, right tackle for the Patriots, forces a little pity to seep through me normally pitiless consternation.  He was arrested in April after a traffic stop turned up over 200 pills of Oxycontin, a highly addictive painkiller.    I don't know the circumstances of the stop, but somehow police in New York discovered the pills in his pocket as he was driving back from his Canadian home.  As far as the legality of this is concerned, I have no feelings, but I do have a concern that these may have been in his possession because of a failed attempt at pain management resultant from the rigors of the NFL.  If this was the case I certainly feel for him.



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By now, we should all have seen what the NFL can do to people later in life.  If you spend enough time in the press boxes of our nations football stadiums, you can see a long line of octogenarians in forty-year old bodies.  You come to recognize the flexless, un-locomotive walk of the ex-lineman or tailback or linebacker.  When I see it, I always think of the character of Cotton Hill on Mike Judge's King of the Hill.  Cotton, of whom I do an exceptional imitation, walks teetering side to side in a waddle because he "got ma shins blowed off at the knee" in World War 2. 

Last season the health situation of many retired players was again brought to light by the actions of Mike Ditka.  I feel for the titans of yesteryear when today's league is filled with obnoxious salaries and free agency that they could never have imagined.  If Reggie Bush or JaMarcus Russell never play another down they will have already made more than many Hall of Famers.   JohnnyUnitas-ClassicPasser[1].jpgI always hear stories about how the golden arm of Johnny Unitas was
nearly useless at the end of his life, his fingers being broken beyond use.  I hear that and think of my own fingers, many of which corkscrew in odd directions from repeated breaks.  It hurts to make a fist or pinch a pencil but I can do it and I haven't done anything in my life, I cannot imagine the constant agony in the hands of ex-linemen around the league.

I think Ditka's Gridiron Greats Assistance Fund is an exceptional cause and I think the problem is downplayed by NFL brass and Gene Upshaw to some extent.  The NFL is so wealthy that they can do a lot more for the health of ex-players and they probably should.   The elephant in the room is the bargaining agreement that ownership has abandoned for the 2011 season.  With the end of that labor agreement looming, the Players Association and the owners are going to have to work something out.  Ditka and his group need to bring Upshaw on board with the idea that taking care of the ex-players is int eh best interest of PA and the bargaining process.  The owners direly want to instigate a rookie salary cap similar to that of the NBA, so the PA has something they can bargain against if they are willing to place the health issue near the top of their list.  It is my hope that the PA will do this very thing.  Teams near the bottom of the league are going to suffer as long as they subject themselves to the impact of some of the rookie salaries.  One of the reasons the Indianapolis Colts have been able to maneuver the cap the way they have in the last few years is because they win consistently, which puts them near the bottom of the draft where the lower salaries.  The same goes for the Patriots. 

I don't know if this kind of thinking is in the pans of the PA's brokers, but if it isn't Gene Upshaw should be fired.  If you pitch it to the league members that their futures will be more secure with better health care, and that all they have to give up is the extravagant salaries of players who are not even in the league yet, it ought to be an easy sell.  The snag may be guaranteed contracts.  If the PA decides to bargain for other things they may not make the health of players that aren't even in the league anymore that much credence.  I hope for the best but expect the worst. 

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