Posted by Josh Katzowitz
Dan Pastorini is mad. He’s mad at the NFL owners. He’s mad at the NFL Players Association. And he’s mad at Drew Brees.
“F--- Drew Brees,” Pastorini said.
Pastorini is mad at the way he feels he and his former NFL compatriots have been treated, and though Brees isn’t the true villain in this movie, he’s also an easy target for something he said two years ago.
Pastorini looks at the new CBA deal and figures out how much more money he’ll receive as a player who retired before 1993. He remembers how much he made when he was playing quarterback for the Oilers, Rams, Raiders and Eagles from 1971-82. Then, he thinks about the NFL Players Association and the NFL owners -- and the labor fight for which he couldn’t participate -- and his blood boils.
He gets mad, really mad, and he lets loose on a rant in which he places blame on both sides who he believes simply doesn’t care about the men who helped build the NFL into what it is today.
The $620 million “Legacy Fund” added to the new CBA for the players who retired before 1993 that will be used to increase pensions? And the $300 million in other benefits, including those for health? It’s simply not good enough for Pastorini. Not good enough for how much he says he sacrificed.
“I’m going to get an extra $1,000 a month. Big f------ deal,” the 62-year-old Pastorini told CBSSports.com recently. “I think it’s a travesty the way they treat the older players. I’m part of that group. They’re throwing us a bone with the $620 million. By the time they get to a new CBA after 10 years, they won’t have to worry about us pre-93er’s. It’s sad, but it’s their M.O. They want to wait for us to die.
“What they’re talking about now is to give us a bone and to shut us up. It’s just wrong. It’s damn wrong. And the players association is just as greedy as the owners are, if not more so. The players don’t go to bat for us, which makes us ashamed.”
And what Brees said in 2009 when discussing retired players who complained about their benefits -- as recounted here by CBSSports.com’s Mike Freeman -- really upsets Pastorini.
“There's some guys out there that have made bad business decisions,” Brees said then. “They took their pensions early because they never went out and got a job. They've had a couple divorces and they're making payments to this place and that place. And that's why they don't have money. And they're coming to us to basically say, 'Please make up for my bad judgment.' In that case, that's not our fault as players."
It might have seemed Brees was talking directly to Pastorini, who’s had to declare bankruptcy twice and has been divorced after ending his one-time Pro Bowl career. Clearly, Pastorini feels that Brees -- who is making $7.4 million this year and could be the next quarterback to win a $90 million contract -- made it personal.
“My first year’s salary was $25,000, then $30,000, then $35,000,” Pastorini said. “These guys make my first contract in a game. Look at (former NFLPA executive director) Gene Upshaw and what he left his wife when he died? How did he leave her $15 million? They’ve been screwing us from day one. My pension was $1,100 a month, then $1,200, then $1,400, and now it’ll be $1,750. No medical, no disability -- $1700 doesn’t even pay for my rent.”
Not surprisingly, the NFL has a slightly different opinion.
Said NFL spokesman Greg Aiello in a statement to CBSSports.com: “We respectfully disagree with Dan.” The NFLPA declined comment on the issue.
But let’s look at the other side of the story. Before the newest CBA, the Legacy Fund didn’t exist. The NFL and the NFLPA are both contributing at least $300 million over the next 10 years to add more money for former players. If it’s $1,000 more a month for a retiree, that’s $1,000 more than that former player had before.
And though Brees’ statement continues to backfire on him and the union, those close to Brees says he was one of the retired players’ biggest advocates in trying to give back to the players who came before him -- and to get everybody to understand the importance of doing so. Witness a radio interview he gave last April to XX 1090 in San Diego.
“I know that I’m fighting for so many people here, for former players in the form of improving their pensions and disability benefits to take care of those guys that built this game for us and future players too,” he said. “To be honest with you, this is one of those things that when a settlement is reached, that settlement is something that I’m probably never going to benefit from. It’s guys before me, it’s guys that are going to come after me. So for me, there’s so many guys that made sacrifices before us to make this game better.”
Pastorini (second from the left in the photo to the left) has good reason to want better medical benefits as well. With so much newly emerging information about chronic traumatic encephalopathy, Pastorini is worried that he’s going to be suffering from the dementia-like condition if he lives long enough.
“I’ve been to clinics. I’ve been put on vitamin regimens. I find myself not remembering people’s names,” said Pastorini, who said he sustained at least a dozen concussions when he played. “I’ll go to the kitchen for a cup of coffee, and I can’t remember why I went in there. It’s possible I have that. I won’t know until they cut my brain open.”
Pastorini isn’t alone in his thoughts. During Super Bowl week in Dallas, the NFL Alumni held a press conference that featured former players who were fighting -- and outspoken in their demand -- for better pension benefits and long-term health care.
But in reality, what can the NFL and the NFLPA say to fully satisfy the league’s alumni? Probably nothing, and to their credit, both sides feel like they’ve tried to improve the conditions for the retirees. But to Pastorini, it’s just not good enough.
“There’s a lot of greed in this business,” Pastorini said. “We’re the guys on the outside looking in, and we’re never going to be compensated for what we do. We built the game, and these guys should be kissing our ass now. But they’re not.”
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