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Late hits: Why do so many former NFL players go broke?

by | CBSSports.com National NFL Insider
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Surely Roger Goodell and DeMaurice Smith can figure out a way to help destitute former players. (Getty Images)  
Surely Roger Goodell and DeMaurice Smith can figure out a way to help destitute former players. (Getty Images)  

The NFL is awash in cash. It's raining Benjamins. Billions of dollars, high television ratings, unprecedented popularity. There has never been anything like it in the history of American sports, which makes what you're about to read all the more puzzling.

This comes from the Gridiron Greats Assistance Fund (GGAF) which aids former NFL players that experience extreme financial hardships. These stories are taken verbatim from a GGAF email and are stunning:

 Former running back with the Miami Dolphins, suffering financial hardship because of the changing economy. He has changed jobs a few times in the last few years, each with a pay cut, all while taking classes so he can get a better job and provide for his high school age son. GGAF helped with one month of mortgage payments.

 Former punter with the Packers and Rams, suffering financial hardship because of cutbacks at his job. He is financially responsible for his young son. GGAF helped with utilities and rent.

 Former linebacker with the New Orleans Saints, suffering financial hardship since last year when his wife was diagnosed with cancer and has been unable to work. GGAF helped with mortgage payment.

 Former linebacker with the Detroit Lions, suffering from an incurable disease and has medical bills and financial hardships. GGAF helped with mortgage payments.

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 Former wide receiver with the Jets and Ravens, suffering financial hardships due to his job not paying him over the summer. GGAF helped reconnect his utilities.

 Former running back with the Patriots, Falcons and Rams, currently living through a Chicago winter with water and gas pipes that were not working. GGAF helped negotiate with the contractor for donated services, so that he and his family would have heat and hot water.

 Former running back with the Oakland Raiders and Buffalo Bills, suffering financial hardship due to the economy and high medical/prescription costs. Was pawning his possessions to pay for his prescriptions and food, most of the time having to choose which to buy. GGAF helped pay for rent to keep him from being evicted, and to keep his utilities on.

 Former running back with the Bengals and Buccaneers, suffering financial hardship in this economy. GGAF helped pay for rent.

 Former defensive tackle with the 49ers, suffering from brain trauma from football related injuries, has gone through nine brain surgeries, and suffers seizures. GGAF helped pay bills.

 Former defensive tackle with the Cowboys, Saints and Bears, suffering financial hardship, has trouble working because of memory issues. GGAF helped pay rent so he wouldn't be evicted.

 Former tackle with the Buccaneers, suffering from chronic fatigue syndrome and a reduction of pay due to the economy. GGAF helped with car payments so he wouldn't lose his car. This isn't a story about blame. The union is run by an intelligent and compassionate man. The NFL, the same.

And there is definitely something to say about personal responsibility. Terrell Owens made enough money during his NFL career for several lifetimes, yet he's broke due to poor investments and child-support payments. That's on Owens, and it's possible some of the above stories happened because of irresponsible choices as well.

Yet many of these situations feel like men who simply slipped through the cracks through no fault of their own, and in a league that has so much money, how is it that any former player can be on the verge of eviction or having their car repossessed?

Some of this again is about personal responsibility. Not all of those men are victims. Some of the pain is self-inflicted, but it remains an amazing thing to see, nonetheless. It's also a reminder of why players fight for every penny when they play.

And the money continues to roll in…

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