Well, I wondered.
When the NFL announced the surprise settlement of the concussion lawsuits last fall summer, most outsiders sensed that the $765 million was somehow not enough to cover 18,000 former players.
U.S, District Judge Anita F. Brody seems to agree. Judge Brody withheld the Court's final approval and wants more financial analysis from the league and the player's union to show that funds will be available to all the players and their families who need it.
In fairness to the NFL, the opinion is based on headlines, not on deep reading of the arrangement. Spokesmen for both the NFL and the Player's Union express confidence that the Court will ultimately approve the deal.
Yet, the union hasn't done so well against the owners since they lost the Lockout War.
The players cast themselves as the fan's champions and fought to reopen training camp. The owners were all about business. They recouped a larger share of the broadcast revenue at players' expense. They suppressed the salary cap in the first two seasons of the CBA. And they have consistently out-maneuvered the union in court.
Did the union fight hard enough for players?
The NFL PA presented its own analysis for a sliding scale of benefits based on the player's symptoms and age. Legacy players have a beef with both owners and union on pension issues. The settlement has the same feel. It pays less to an older retiree for an ailment than if it struck at an earlier age. That makes sense to an actuary, but the old veteran may have a higher medical bill than coverage provides.
The NFL once retained physicians whose views of the dangers of head injuries conformed more to coaches than to the rest of the medical profession. They found a ready audience in players who admit they would have remained in games even if they were fully aware of the danger of playing while concussed.
What about current players?
The league is legislating head shots out of the game with rules about spearing and defenseless players. That's not sufficient. Like good art and beauty, such infractions are in the eye of the official. And it channels players to target the lower sections of the body, risking knees instead of brains.
There has to be a better way.
Players argue that they've been trained since childhood to use their head as a ram and to target the head of opponents. The league hopes to change that culture in the next generation of players with "heads up football," through its partnership with USA Football.
Why don't the owners and players agree to hold additional mini-camps specifically to teach the technique to the pros, and then penalize players who don't tackle heads-up in live games. If 12-year-olds can do it, professionals can do it better.
Endorsement by famous coaches of heads up football is just lip service until the NFL does this. That makes settlements a simple cost of doing business.