In an episode of Barstool Sports’ “Bussin’ With The Boys” podcast that was recorded in June of 2022, the Hall of Fame linebacker spoke about a number of things, including retirement and his career with the Bears. It was his comments about former players and CTE that left some people scratching their heads.
Urlacher, 44, retired from the NFL after the 2012 season. He spent his entire career in Chicago, and while discussing his current state after playing for 13 years, the four-time All-Pro LB accused other former players of lying about having CTE.
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Urlacher on Ex-Players: ‘They Want Money’
“I feel like I’m decently sharp still. You know, there’s some things I forget, but my friends forget s***, too,” Urlacher said on the podcast. “I feel like I’m still doing pretty well. There are some guys I played with who claimed — I don’t know, here’s the problem now with all the guys with the CTE, if they do have it, I feel for them, but there’s guys who say they have it just so they can be in the f****** lawsuit,” Urlacher said.
“They want that money from the NFL and I get it, man,” Urlacher continued. “You know, everyone wants to get there due, but there’s really guys that have it, that deserve to be taken care of. And there’s the guys that don’t have it who want to be — who want to have it just so they can get part of that lawsuit and that just drives me crazy.”
One error in Urlacher’s thinking is that both current and former players can only be diagnosed with CTE post-mortem. While researchers are continuing to work on finding ways to consistently diagnose CTE in living people, that breakthrough hasn’t come yet.
Another point of confusion is that there is no current lawsuit for players to be a part of.
In 2016, the NFL reached a settlement in a class action lawsuit brought against the league by more than 4,000 former players. The settlement included an “uncapped monetary fund through which any retired player who is diagnosed with a qualifying neurocognitive or neuromuscular impairment or condition can receive a financial award,” via CNN.
The fund compensates individual players up to $5 million, depending on which qualifying cognitive impairment they have been diagnosed with. Former players diagnosed with dementia or a form of Alzheimer’s or Parkinson’s disease can receive anywhere from $1.5 to $3.5 million, while $5 million is given for an ALS diagnosis. Players who have been diagnosed with CTE posthumously receive $4 million.
While there is no current lawsuit, Urlacher was likely referring to or thinking about this uncapped fund, and potential instances of fraud that may come up.
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Urlacher Slammed for His Comments
Urlacher’s claims about current or former players lying about having CTE were called “troubling” by some.
One Twitter user felt Urlacher’s solidarity with other former players may have taken a hit:
While others simply bashed Urlacher for his take:
Florio: Urlacher’s Comments Were ‘Reckless’
Mike Florio of Pro Football Talk may have leveled the most pointed criticism at the Bears legend, however.
“It’s rare to see so few words contain so many flaws,” Florio wrote on July 13. “There is no ‘lawsuit.’ No one is suing the league at this point. The class action was settled, years ago.”
Florio acknowledged there are fraudulent claims, but felt Urlacher’s comments were still potentially damaging. “Is it possible that some players could be overstating their health issues in an effort to qualify for compensation? Sure. But the procedures surely have been crafted to separate phony claims from real ones,” Florio noted, adding:
“It’s odd that Urlacher would make broad, reckless comments that could undermine the efforts of players to get fair compensation, and that could influence fans and/or media to wonder whether some players are running a scam. … The NFL already has agreed to fund, without limitation, any payments to those players who properly qualify.”
The NFL also has a website that updates and monitors settlements received by former players. The website also has multiple ways people can report fraud and/or fraudulent claims.