ProFootballTalk’s Mike Florio is reporting a ruling that could undermine the concussion lawsuits filed by thousands of former players has been reached as former Bengals tight end Ben Utecht has won an arbitration proceeding filed after he suffered a serious concussion during training camp in 2009.
The arbitration was focused on whether or not Utecht could have been cleared to play at any point in the 2009 season after receiving brain trauma during training camp. The Bengals argued that he could have been cleared during the season, which would have reduced their obligation to pay his salary for the entire year.
Utecht argued, successfully, that he should not have been cleared using today’s concussion procedures and that he should have received his full salary. The arbitrator agreed with Utecht, ordering the Bengals to pay his full salary for the 2009 season.
The money is in fact the smallest part of the picture here, given that Utecht was released from injured reserve by the Bengals in November during that 2009 season and saw most of his earnings curbed by that in the first place. In fact the main news is that the NFL may now finally have legal precedent when it comes to the issue of dealing with players who suffer concussions or brain injuries.
Now we all know that the NFL and NFLPA have crafted internal procedures that are available in case of a player complaint against their team or the league involving concussions, which is huge given the current outrage in some circles on the epidemic of head injuries in football. With the Utecht ruling there is at least some set precedent for current and future grievances with the league to finally get settled and have the ugly mess between former players and the NFL to at least reach some sort of middle ground and get closure.