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Veteran players' veteran pay no help with disabilities

Posted: Friday July 6, 2007 11:11AM; Updated: Friday July 6, 2007 11:32AM
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Randy Moss may make enough to never have to worry about a medical bill again, but that hasn't always been the case for NFL players.
Randy Moss may make enough to never have to worry about a medical bill again, but that hasn't always been the case for NFL players.
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We're getting an anti-veteran reaction. A couple of weeks ago people were sympathetic to the retired players' demands. Now we're seeing the other side of the coin. And both letters I'm responding to this week were decidedly mean-spirited in nature, the thrust of each one being, hey, they made plenty during their careers, at least more than I did. If they weren't smart enough to save enough, well, that's tough.

Jeremy of Annapolis was the milder of the two plaintiffs, uh, e-mailers. Sgt. Jeffrey R. of Excelsior Springs, Mo., is more hard-assed about it. He's put away enough to live on, but he earned it via his 16 years in the USAF. "I can just see Randy Moss dropping a pass because he was distracted by an alarm signaling the launch of a scud missile," he writes, which makes me wonder exactly what type of service football he's used to. And sarge, I'm coming back to you later regarding that personal stuff about my salary and eating habits.

Here's the deal, gentlemen. Players didn't make a whole lot in the old days, especially since their medical protection was minimal, and some of them are really hurting right now. When I started covering the Jets in '66, the average salary in the league was about $15,000 and there's no way that kind of salary, plus the diddly little pension fund that eventually followed, could have provided for adequate medical coverage today ... and remember that a lot of the lingering injuries didn't fully surface until much later. Don't equate the huge salaries of this era with the numbers of yesteryear. Some of these guys really are in dire need, whether you feel sorry for them or not.

OK, sarge. Let's turn to Crazy Statement No. 1: "Even you made more in the few hours it took to write this article, I suspect, than my retirement pension amounts to for the entire month." Right now I'm on a sabbatical from Sports Illustrated, getting half pay as I try to write a book. Just to keep the pot boiling a little, I do the mailbag column on a contract basis, so much $$$ per story. How much, you ask? Well, I'm not going to print it here because it would break people's hearts and they'd start sending in contributions. But since you were kind enough to include your personal e-mail address, I'm going to send it to you, private-like, and if it comes anywhere near your pension, I'll send you the best bottle of wine you ever tasted.

Crazy Statement No. 2: "And I doubt you've ever laid an MRE out in the sun to cook it." MRE, everybody, stands for Meals Ready to Eat. I would gladly match it against the K-Ration supplies we ate in basic at Fort Dix, back in '55, when you were just a tiny little thing, sarge, and mama was kissing your booboo for you. They were WWII surplus and some genius in the Pentagon decided they all had to be used up -- more than 10 years later. I'll never forget those K-Ration hamburgers, and that horrible acid taste that ... sorry, I can't go on.

Our E-mailer of the Week is JP Wieske of Green Bay for his suggestion that there should be a space for assistant coaches in the Hall of Fame. Yes. Take the case of Monte Kiffin, for instance. He's been the defensive coordinator for the Bucs forever. Never wanted a head job. Terrific in what he does, innovative, etc. There are quite a few like that. In '98, when the Chargers, run by Ryan Leaf, finished 5-11 but led the NFL in defense, my Coach of the Year was Joe Pascale, the defensive coordinator. "You can't pick an assistant," my editor told me. "Where's the sign that says that?" I said. So we got into this big argument, and surprise, it was one of the few that I actually won.

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