Tag Archives: Vernon Davis

Game Plan Foundation Helps former NFL’ers Get Much Needed Help

20 Feb

By Chris Murray

For the Chris Murray Report and the Philadelphia Sunday Sun

As a player, Leonard Marshall led the New York Giants to Super Bowl titles.  In retirement,  Marshall is helping his retired brethren to enjoy life after football. Photo submitted by Angela Crockett Enterprises, Inc.

As a player, Leonard Marshall led the New York Giants to Super Bowl titles. In retirement, Marshall is helping his retired brethren to enjoy life after football. Photo submitted by Angela Crockett Enterprises, Inc.

During his playing days with the New York Giants, New York Jets and Washington Redskins, Leonard Marshall was one of the NFL’s best defensive lineman with a career that included a pair of Super Bowl rings and 83 sacks.

But when he hung up his jersey after 11 years in the game in 1994, Marshall began to notice that all was not well with some of his fellow ex-NFL players. Some were dealing with malingering pain from old injuries that led to addiction to painkillers. Others didn’t have jobs with the health insurance needed to help with their problems. Still others were dealing with serious short-term memory loss.

“Some of the players were divorced and didn’t have the education or skills to earn money,” Marshall said. “They found themselves in a situation where they couldn’t figure out ‘What’s my next step?”

As he talked with more players, this pattern of injury, addiction and memory loss became clearer, Marshall said.

But it was the  tragic death by suicide of former Philadelphia Eagles safety Andre Waters in 2006 that made Marshall take action. He and Waters had faced off more than once when he played with both the Giants and the Redskins, so the news hit close to home.

“That situation was terrible. That’s what grabbed my attention,” Marshall said. “It was a wake-up call.”

It was then that Marshall decided that it might be time for him to help his fellow retired brethren of the gridiron put together a Game Plan.

In 2008, Marshall formed the Game Plan Foundation to help former NFL’ers connect with the treatment they need. So far, the organization has raised $50,000 and has established partnerships with the medical facilities such as the Laser Spine Institute in Tampa, Fla., and Clifton, N.J.-based P.A.S.T (Pain Alternatives, Solutions Treatment), a medical group that treats former athletes.

Those  facilities provide former players without health insurance or savings the care they need for the physical and mental ailments brought on by the game free of charge.

“About 60 or 70 percent of former players aren’t employed and don’t have the skill set or the ability to function in a job or have a partner that has a job with health benefits,” Marshall said. “I want them to have options for their healthcare.”

The most prevalent ailment among retired players is the issue of chronic traumatic encephalopathy—or CTE. CTE is a degenerative brain condition caused by an abnormal build up of the protein tau, which strangles the brain cells in the areas that control memory, emotions and other functions. CTE, which doctors say is the result of head trauma, has been linked to dementia and depression.

CTE, which was first discovered by forensic pathologist Dr. Bennett Omalu when he did an autopsy of Pittsburgh Steelers Hall-of-Fame center Mike Webster. The suicides of San Diego Chargers linebacker Junior Seau and former Chicago Bears defensive back Dave Duerson, have been connected to CTE.

Marshall was diagnosed, along with former Dallas Cowboys Hall-of-Fame running back Tony Dorsett and offensive lineman Joe DeLamielleure, with CTE last November after having a test done at UCLA.

This makes the struggle to help the NFL’s retirees  a personal one for Marshall.

“I deal with the signs associated with CTE every day,” Marshall said. “I would get in the car, knew where I was going before I left and then forget where I was going or why I was going and then go back home.”

Marshall said he copes with it by taking supplements, exercise and getting additional therapy with controlling his behavior from P.A.S.T., some of which involve him going through therapy that involves getting oxygen to his brain.

“I have to deal with making good decisions, but I’m still talking and writing. Trying to make things work for Leonard,” he said. “It’s a challenge.”

The reality of CTE is also a concern to current NFL players as well. San Francisco 49ers tight end Vernon Davis said players are worried about the blows to the head that aren’t diagnosed as concussions.

“You have guys that are worried about the helmets they’re wearing or they’re thinking of the players who are suffering from brain injuries now,” Davis said. “It’s getting better, but guys are still worried about it.  …The thing I think about is do we get concussions even though we don’t have symptoms? How will that affect our health? We’re playing this contact sport and we’re getting concussions, but we’re not having the symptoms.”

Unlike now, where players that get their “bells rung” have to go through a concussion protocol before even thinking of returning to the field, head injuries were the last thing on the league’s mind when Marshall was in his prime, he said.

“They did not educate us on head trauma,” Marshall said. “It wasn’t a part of your annual physical. I never got one as a Jet, Giant or Redskin. That was not a part of the exam.”

During his annual press conference at the Super Bowl, NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell was asked by Davis if the league would be willing to give the players free health care for retired players.

This issue made the news recently when a federal judge held up a $765 million settlement of a class action lawsuit filed by more than 4,800 retired players against the NFL. The $765 million wasn’t enough money to help all of the players involved with their needs, Judge Anita Brody said.

Goodell said the league is always looking for ways to improve the health care for its former players. In 2007, the NFL instituted its 88-Plan, which provides retired players suffering from dementia, Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s disease and ALS with $100,000 annually for long-term care and $88,000 for care at home.

But the NFL can’t make things safer alone. So in an attempt to minimize head trauma, the Game Plan Foundation is also teaching youngsters how to employ tackling techniques that don’t involve using the head.

“We’re trying to come up with new ways of training kids how to play tackle football-blocking and tackling,” Marshall said. “We also want to involve parents in the process of teaching kids how to play.”


Unstoppable? Colin Kaepernick and the 49ers are a Defense’s Worst Nightmare

3 Feb

Can Baltimore Slow  Down  Kaepernick and 49ers  Pistol Offense?SB47_Primary_National_RGB

By Chris Murray

for the Chris Murray Report

In many respects, Super Bowl XLVII will be a matchup of two distinct offensive philosophies.  It’s the San Francisco 49ers new fangled Pistol read-option offense, which is taking the NFL by storm, versus the Baltimore Ravens conventional drop-back passer style of offense.

If the 49ers win this game, there will be a radical rethinking of how teams run their offense in the NFL run their offenses in the way Bill Walsh’s West Coast offense did back in the 1980s.

The 49ers Colin Kaepernick may be fast, but he's smart enough to have a firm grasp of the 49ers Piston Read-option offense.

The 49ers Colin Kaepernick may be fast, but he’s smart enough to have a firm grasp of the 49ers Piston Read-option offense.

There are already teams around the league-the Washington Redskins, Seattle Seahawks and the Carolina Panthers- that use a version of this read-option offense. New Philadelphia Eagles head coach Chip Kelly is looking to install his version of that offense as well.

In the Pistol read option formation, the quarterback is lined up about four yards behind the center while the running back lines up directly behind the quarterback so that the defense doesn’t see the running back while the quarterback can either run, handoff to the running back or even throw a play-action pass.

The 49ers, led by athletic quarterback Colin Kaepernick, have averaged 476 yards in their two playoff games using their Pistol read-option offense. Perhaps the biggest splash that Kaepernick and the read-option have made thus far was the 49ers divisional playoff win over the Green Bay Packers.

In that game, Kaepernick literally ran the Packers out of the playoffs with a record-setting performance. He rushed for NFL- record 181 yards (most ever by a quarterback regular season or playoffs) and scored two touchdowns. He passed for 263 yards and a pair of touchdown passes. The 49ers compiled 579 yards of offense.

Against the Atlanta Falcons in the NFC Championship, so much attention was on Kaepernick keeping the ball and running it that the Falcons forgot about Frank Gore, who gained 90 yards rushing on 21 carries, and tight end Vernon Davis caught five passes for 106 yards. Kaepernick was an efficient 16-of-21 passing for 233 yards and one touchdown pass.

So what is it about the read-option that keeps defensive coordinators and the players the coach up late at night?

“They can do so much and do so many things,” said Ravens linebacker Terrell Suggs. “They can pass out of it. They hand the ball off. There are so many things they can do with it. They can even bring in the trick plays. You have to stay fundamentally sound to defend so many things and play.”

That’s because the read option makes teams have to defend the entire field. In effect, it’s 11-on-11 football where the quarterback serves as an extra blocker by reading where the defender is going to go. In the 49ers read option, Kaepernick can read the ends and linebackers. If those ends and line backers converge on him, the ball is going to the running back or it might go downfield on a pass play.

“It can force a defense to play certain ways that they might not play,” said 49ers offensive coordinator Greg Roman. “It is another way to put pressure on the defense. That is what we want to do. We want to try to put pressure on 11 people on the field. Make it a bad day for them.”

Added Kaepernick: “You’re actually blocking the defender by reading him.”

Even worse for the defense if the offense doesn’t the run ball, the other option for the quarterback is to pass the ball.

“It freezes them a little bit. It gives you a little bit more time,” Kaepernick said of his running ability. “If it’s just a split second, that’s an advantage for the offense.”

In a Dec. 4, the Ravens had trouble stopping the Washington Redskins and Robert Griffith III and their version of the read option. The Redskins rolled up 469 yards of total offense. RGIII passed for 242 yards and one touchdown and also ran for 34 yards.

Meanwhile, rookie running back Alfred Morris gained 129 yards rushing and the Redskins came from behind to beat Baltimore in overtime. There was something the Ravens learned from that experience that could serve them well against the 49ers on Sunday.

“It’s really hard to play that type of package as individuals,” Ravens linebacker Ray Lewis said.  “You have to play it as a group. I said that if you were to try to slow it down, that is the only way to slow it down, is to play it as a group. Make sure before the ball is snapped, everybody is on the same page.”