Over the last few years there's been an explosion of news concerning the NFL and concussions. New rules have been in place, advances in equipment are being made, but plenty of ex-players still have issues with brain trauma. The fight over who is responsible and who owes what money is going to go on for a while.
Central to the fight is a lawsuit filed by 75 former players, claiming the NFL was not forthcoming in what they knew about the potential damage of multiple concussions and need to pay up claims of damage. The NFL denies this and says they have been doing everything they can to make the game safer and to help retired players. Every so often, you'll hear of new retired players joining the lawsuit.
But SB Nation, thanks to the work of Alfie Crow, has the exclusive story of one player who joined the lawsuit, but recently removed his name. Why did he do that? That's what Alfie wanted to know, so he decided to investigate.
From those efforts came a thought-provoking piece entitled "The NFL Doesn't Owe Me Anything" and its subject is former NFL linebacker Jeff Kopp. Alfie Crow spoke with Kopp about multiple issues, all laid out beautifully in a longform article. Kopp's reasoning is a refreshing take on the whole issue and should be read by anybody who has interest in the NFL and its future.
I spoke to author Alfie Crow about how he got this exclusive. Basically it came down to the old adage "if you don't ask you'll never get".
Alfie Crow: I knew Jeff Kopp through pitching a radio show to one of our local stations. One day he tweeted out that he had decided he was going to remove his name from the lawsuit. As soon as I saw his tweet, I sent him a text message asking if I could interview him about his decision to withdraw. He said sure, not thinking it was really that big a of a deal, but then about two hours after his tweet he got calls from ESPN and CBS to talk about his withdrawal. Instead, he gave me the exclusive.
In the article, Kopp talks about his son playing Pop Warner. I asked Crow if Kopp expressed any hesitation about his son playing.
AC: Kopp didn't seem to have any concerns about his son playing football, primarily because of the advances in helmets and the trickle down of concussion awareness to the Pop Warner and high school level. He doesn't think concussions will ever be eliminated, but he thinks they can be minimized with proper awareness and coaching.
Finally, I asked Crow for his opinion on Kopp's story.
AC: Kopp was surprisingly open about the whole ordeal, talking about why it was such an issue for him to join the lawsuit in the first place and openly talking about how he knowingly went back into games with concussions. It was a bit of a more realistic account on how concussions were handled than what we see, being that Kopp is more the typical NFL player. The myth is they're all millionaires, but the majority of players are guys trying to stay on the roster. Kopp spoke a little about how he knew he was dinged a few times and felt foggy, but he felt he had to go out there and earn his roster spot, mostly because of the "football mentality" that was ingrained in some players during this era. It was a "tough it out" mentality, don't be soft, whereas now they're teaching kids and players to speak up if they're foggy.
Congrats to Alfie Crow for grabbing this exclusive. Just reminds us that keeping in contact and asking for interviews can pay off. And thanks to Jeff Kopp for sharing his reasons for leaving the lawsuit, and giving us all some things to think about. This is a huge issue for the NFL and its fans, one not going away any time soon.