Ever since Dave Duerson’s February suicide, followed by the finding of chronic traumatic encephalopathy, I have been calling for the reopening of the files of all rejected National Football League disability claims on his watch as one of the three NFL Players Association trustees of the Bert Bell / Pete Rozelle NFL Retirement Plan.
The first step is figuring out exactly when Duerson served in that capacity. We’re making some progress — though today’s information arrives with tantalizing ambiguity.
Back in the winter, NFL spokesman Brian McCarthy told me he didn’t know the dates of Duerson’s tenure, and suggested I ask the NFLPA. But the NFLPA never responded to my inquiries.
Last month Alex Marvez of FoxSports.com reported on the Maryland court case of retired player Andrew Stewart, who is suing to reverse the rejection of his disability claim by the retirement board. The Duerson angle, which I have been pushing, was a central element of Marvez’s story. Belinda Lerner, executive director of the NFL Player Care Foundation, was directly quoted about it:
[Lerner said] that Duerson “had his complete faculties working” and “contributed to the conversation” at the last trustees meeting both attended six months before his death.
“He seemed fine the last time I saw him,” Lerner said. “He was with his fiancee. To me, someone who is going to get married is someone who is feeling hopeful for the future.”
Six months prior to Duerson’s death, of course, would have been August 2010.
Yet Michael Rosenthal, the attorney for Andrew Stewart, told me last week that disclosures by the NFL to his client now reveal that Duerson did not participate in the deliberation of that claim, which was at the August 2010 meeting.
On the chance that Lerner and Rosenthal were referring to two different meetings, I asked the former for the specific date and explained why I was asking.
I got this back, via NFL spokesman Greg Aiello: “The meeting referred to by Belinda was a Bert Bell/Pete Rozelle Retirement Board meeting — one of four quarterly meetings — February, May, August and November. There was a Retirement Board meeting on August 18, 2010 in Boston. Belinda’s comment referred to the last meeting Dave attended as a trustee for the Players Association.“
I believe Aiello is confirming that Lerner was saying that the meeting where she saw Duerson was on August 18, 2010 — the one in which, according to the records provided to Stewart, Duerson was not a trustee but, rather, had been replaced by Andre Collins. If my interpretation is wrong, then Lerner or Aiello should tell me, and I will quickly reflect exactly what they were saying.
John Hogan, the Georgia disability attorney for many players, emailed: “I have the ‘minutes’ of the August, 2010 Retirement Board meeting from Jimmie Giles’ case, which was considered at that meeting.“ (Note: Giles, the ex-wide receiver, is a plaintiff in the latest of three lawsuits filed recently against the NFL alleging a cover-up of known evidence of the long-term effects of traumatic brain injuries from football.) “It confirms that Andre Collins was there in place of Duerson. It does not indicate why he was not present.“
Curiouser and curiouser.
Next: A set of complete links to every article about Duerson on this blog.