In, 2009, Cincinnati Bengals tight end Ben Utecht suffered a serious concussion during the middle of a training camp practice, and it essentially ended his NFL career. Since then Utecht continues to battle the after effects that come with severe concussions, and he’s worked with the NFL to help promote concussion awareness:
In 2009 my NFL career was promising, but it ended suddenly with a brain injury. Three years later my family and I have closure with the successful conclusion of my contract dispute. We are grateful for the support we have received from all of our friends in professional football and beyond. I will continue to help the NFL in any way I can to educate people about brain safety and the seriousness of this issue.
But he also believes he wasn’t properly compensated for the injury, which caused him to be placed on the Injured Reserve List and lowered his salary for the 2009 season. Utecht was later released from injured reserve by the Bengals in mid-November of 2009.
Ben claimed he had not received enough testing for the team to clear him for return to play proving his contract should not have been terminated, and today, he won an arbitration battle against the Bengals.
The arbitrator agreed with Utecht, ordering the Bengals to pay his full salary for the 2009 season.
Whoever was involved in the decision to not pay Utecht should be ashamed in how they handled this situation. If you recall in 2009, Utecht entered camp as the #1 tight end on the depth chart, and was almost guaranteed to be on the opening day roster. The Bengals trying to skip out on paying him is just a sad reminder of how cheaply people in the organization choose to operate at times.
It’s also a sad reminder on how the game we love so much and watch every time it’s on a television, can be so brutal to its own players. Concussions occur far too often, and have far too many life-altering effects that the NFL tries to avoid paying or pay as little as they have to.
The NFL is currently facing concussion lawsuits filed by thousands of former players, and things like this only paint a darker picture of the NFL, which is already in the middle of an image crisis.