Everyone from Deadspin.com to Senator Tom Udall would have us believe that Dave Duerson was a great guy, and maybe he was. Or maybe he was before chronic traumatic encephalopathy, which almost certainly caused him to commit suicide, messed him up so much that he blew a fortune, got arrested for domestic violence, and acted like a cold-hearted jerk – and one lacking fiduciary responsibility, to boot – in his capacity as a National Football League Players Association-appointed trustee of the retirement and disability plan.
This last is crucial, and the reason the Duerson family’s lawsuit against the NFL is different than the many others filed recently by or on behalf of retired and mentally disabled players.
According to son Tregg Duerson, quoted in The New York Times, his father came around at the end to the idea that the systematic trauma of football had caused his and others’ brain disease. But when? And how?
As I first reported last summer, Duerson missed the August 2010 meeting of the Bert Bell / Pete Rozelle NFL Retirement Plan board. Why? Did the meeting conflict with a friend’s wedding? Had he contracted gout? Or was he, perhaps, depressed or disoriented? If the latter, then it would fuel the case I have been making here for more than a year: that the complete file of rejected NFL mental disability claims needs an immediate audit by the U.S. Department of Labor. (Furthermore, before correcting itself during my reporting and that of Alex Marvez of FoxSports.com, the NFL at first inaccurately denied that Duerson had been absent from the August 2010 meeting.)
In the coming months, the mainstream media coverage of the Duerson suit will be feeding the public lots of dueling quotes and opinions and bromides. But the facts surrounding his retirement board service are what will turn this story.