After involving himself in the NFL’s high-profile concussion lawsuit, former LSU great and NFL All-Pro guard Alan Faneca on Sunday admitted it was “a tough question” to answer when asked whether he would play football knowing how devastating brain injuries seen in the sport can be to ex-players.
“I think I would,” he told SiriusXM NFL Radio. “I love what I did. It was amazing to play football on such a great level and play in front of sixty or eighty thousand people (every game).”
Yet at the same time, Faneca said he expects the NFL to undergo plenty of changes through technology and rules modifications to alleviate some of the concussion-related health and legal issues the league has been navigating of late.
Faneca, a New Orleans native, was a first-team All-American for LSU in 1997 before putting in 13 years in the NFL, mostly with the Pittsburgh Steelers. He has six first-team All-Pro honors, nine Pro Bowl selections and a Super Bowl ring from the end of the 2005 season, and last month he was inducted into the Louisiana Sports Hall of Fame.
On Wednesday, through their lawyers, Faneca and six other NFL retirees filed a 58-page motion petitioning a judge to reject the latest proposal for the league and as many as 20,000 ex-players to settle concussion claims. The settlement would provide up to $5 million each for retired players who develop neurological problems such as amyotrophic lateral sclerosis or dementia believed to be the result of concussions suffered during their NFL careers.
The settlement proposal is a revision of an earlier one and removes a $675 million cap on damages. It comes after U.S. District Judge Anita Brody, who is overseeing the case, expressed concern about whether that was enough money to cover all claims.
But, among other things, the revised proposal excludes players suffering symptoms of the degenerative brain condition chronic traumatic encephalopathy and milder brain injuries, and it leaves out veterans of the out-of-business NFL Europe.
That prompted Faneca and the other players to lodge their objection.
“The window (provided by the proposed settlement) is so small when it should be 10 times as big because there’s that much potential out there,” Faneca said in the interview. “What we’re after is broadening the scope of things and not closing the window on so many guys and excluding ... future guys — guys that might not have problems now.”
The 37-year-old said he has dealt with some forgetfulness since his retirement after the 2010 season. He added, “There’s some common ground that needs to be met and mutually decided upon on both sides — not just drawing a line in the sand and saying, ‘The rest of you guys are on your own.’ ”
At the center of the concussion litigation are 4,500 former players who have filed suit against the NFL. Some accuse the league of fraud for its handling of head injuries.
Faneca said that soon after he joined the NFL in 1998, the culture was to laugh at players who got knocked out in the course of play. But, as his career progressed, it became “not as funny of a deal.”
“People started to realize what we were doing,” Faneca said, “and guys were having issues with having those concussions.”