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Afternoon Shift

NFL Head Games: Is football out of control?

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First rule of fight club is you do not talk about fight club.

Listen to Hunter Hillenmeyer and Lester Munson discuss this issue on Afternoon Shift


A similar omertà rule kept talk about the ugly truths of the similarly violent culture of the National Football League contained to pro football locker rooms for years. That all changed last week when a league investigation revealed that the New Orleans Saints operated a bounty system which rewarded players for deliberately inflicting injuries on their opponents. The news is especially troubling given a concerted league effort in recent years to curtail pervasive cheap shots and concussions—little did Commissioner Roger Goodell know, the going rate for a “knockout” in New Orleans was $1,500.

Now, senior writer Lester Munson says, the culture of the NFL is on trial.

It’s not the only item on the league’s docket: The NFL is facing several lawsuits from former players alleging that the league hid evidence linking concussions to permanent brain injuries. Last year the Chicago Bears terminated linebacker Hunter Hillenmeyer’s contract shortly after the team’s concussion consultant recommended he no longer play football. The concussion Hillenmeyer sustained in a preseason game against the Cardinals in 2010 turned out to be a career-ending blow. Now, Hillenmeyer is entangled in a grievance process to claim his injury protection benefit—50 percent of his base salary up to $1 million—as is stipulated by the National Football League Players’ Association’s collective bargaining agreement.

His case is not unique according to the NFLPA; the union claims that despite the contract provision, many retired players have been denied benefits after suffering career-ending head injuries.

Hillenmeyer joined Munson and Afternoon Shift to tackle the question: Are hard hits and bounties just a part of the game or are they systematic unnecessary roughness?

Munson recently wrote about the wrongful death lawsuit filed by the family of former Chicago Bear Dave Duerson, who took his own life last February. A postmortem study of Duerson's brain revealed that he suffered from chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE), a form of damage to the tissues of the brain that results from concussions. 

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