"We will aggressively protect the health, safety and long-term livelihood of our players, both on the field and off. We can preserve the fierce competition that makes football great, while simultaneously committing to the relentless pursuit of safer play. Our players do not make excuses on the field; we will not make them off the field." -- NFL commissioner Roger Goodell in a letter to NFL fans dated August 31, 2012
The cries for safety in football that have come from the NFL commissioner's office continue to echo throughout the land at all levels of the game.
Professional, college, high school, Pop Warner and old lady training camp. Wait, old lady training camp? Huh?
Yes, you heard me correctly. The Darwinian nature of football has trickled down to sixtysomething housewives in stretch pants and baggy sweatshirts waddling around on the gridiron in Nebraska.
Dateline, Lincoln, Nebraska (courtesy opposingviews.com):
A 66-year-old woman claims in court that she suffered brain injuries during a drill at a "Football 101" camp for women founded by University of Nebraska head football coach Bo Pelini.
Beverly Morgan sued the Bo Pelini Foundation and volunteer coach Tim Beck in Lancaster County Court, Lincoln, Neb.
The Bo Pelini Foundation, founded by Cornhuskers head football coach Bo Pelini and his wife in 2008, organizes and sponsors an annual football clinic for women called "Football 101," according to the complaint.
Morgan says she was injured in a gauntlet drill in June 2010, in which she ran through two columns of women with blocking pads, who tried to knock the ball out of her hands.
Okay, so those are the broad strokes. Beverly Morgan (whose name, for some reason, screams "helpless 66-year-old woman who got dumped on her head learning to play football" to me) sustained some injuries at one of those group gatherings that we see more and more schools and teams doing in an effort to broaden their female fan base. It's supposed to be a harmless, if not slightly comedic, event.
But as you'll see in the excerpts of the lawsuit I've highlighted below, to quote Stu Nahan in Rocky IV after Drago killed Apollo Creed -- WHAT STARTED AS A JOKE HAS TURNED INTO A DISASTER!!
Let's proceed. From the lawsuit document itself, here's the story, and as always, my intermittent comments are preceded by "SP:":
1. Plaintiff Beverly J. Morgan (hereinafter "Plaintiff") is and was at all times relevant a Nebraska resident living in Lincoln, Lancaster County, Nebraska. Plaintiff was at the time 64 years of age on the date in question.
2. Defendant Bo Pelini Foundation, Inc. (hereinafter "BPF") is and was at all times relevant a Nebraska corporation registered to do business in the state of Nebraska. BPF's principal place of business is One Memorial Stadium, P.O. Box 880154, Lincoln, Lancaster County, Nebraska 68588. Defendant BPF at all times relevant organized and sponsored an annual football clinic primarily for women called "Football 101".
3. Defendant Tim Beck (hereinafter "Beck"), is and was at all times relevant a resident of Lincoln, Lancaster County, Nebraska with his business address at One Memorial Stadium, P.O. Box 880154, Lincoln, Lancaster County, Nebraska 68588. Defendant Beck was, upon information and belief, a volunteer coach in charge of a "Football 101" drill called a gauntlet drill on the day in question.
4. Defendants John Does 1-3 and Jane Roes 1-3 are at present unknown as to an exact name and address. Plaintiff could not discover their true names prior to filing this Complaint. Plaintiff anticipates particulars regarding additional defendants will be provided as discovery develops.
SP: It sounds like they're still trying to locate the other blocking-pad-wielding grandmothers who perpetrated this dastardly act. It's actually kind of funny to picture them all on the lam somewhere in Florida waiting for the whole ordeal to blow over, like Tony Soprano and Paulie when the FBI found the skeleton of Tony's first kill during a random building excavation.
5. Plaintiff was a participant in the "Football 101" clinic held at Memorial Stadium and the Hawk's Championship Training Center on the University of Nebraska Campus in Lincoln, Lancaster County, Nebraska on June 2, 2010.
6. Plaintiff was assigned to a group of participants in a drill referred to as a gauntlet drill where several women formed two lines and were provided blocking pads while other women, including the Plaintiff, were given a football and challenged to run through the lines of women holding the blocking pads. Defendant Beck told the ball carriers their goal was to not drop the ball; Defendant Beck told the women with pads their goal was to knock the ball out of the hands of the ball carrier. The women with the pads were encouraged by Defendant Beck and/or others in charge of the drill to "Hit her!" as the ball carrier attempted to get through the gauntlet line.
SP: Okay, not surprisingly, the plaintiff is trying to twist Beck's words -- "Hit her!" -- from actual drill instructions into the demands of a maniacal drill despot hellbent on inflicting terror and pain on a helpless Beverly Morgan. Hey, Beverly, I feel bad that you fell, but "Hit her!" is kind of part of the whole "gauntlet" deal.
7. Plaintiff, before June 2, 2010, was unfamiliar with football other than as a Cornhusker fan. Prior to performing the drill, she asked Defendant Beck how to hold the ball. Defendant Beck demonstrated to Plaintiff to hold the ball with arms crossed across the chest. No other instructions or warnings were given to the participants about the drill. Plaintiff was the third or fourth person to attempt the drill.
SP: Three things here -- one, I like how Morgan points out that she was "unfamiliar with football other than as a Cornhusker fan." What does that even mean? Second, there's no video accompanying this story, but the description of how Beck instructed Beverly Morgan to hold the ball makes it sound like she was holding the ball like a high school girl holds her books against her chest on the way to class.
Finally, "no other instructions or warnings were given"?? Beverly, at least three other people went before you. You saw the drill! What other instructions needed to be given? Carry ball, hold onto ball, run through blocking pads. Jeez.
8. Plaintiff held the ball as shown by Defendant Beck, took one or two steps and was struck by one or both of the women at the front of the gauntlet lines so hard she was knocked off her feet hitting the back of her head on the Hawk's Championship Training Center floor causing her cap and earrings to fly off. Plaintiff experienced immediate headache, became nauseated, and her right foot was dragging. Defendant Beck and a woman helped Plaintiff to a chair on the sidelines and left. Another individual came over to Plaintiff and told her someone on the medical staff would come by to check on her. No one did. Plaintiff did not participate in any further drills.
SP: Ain't that the way of big-time football? Once you're no longer of use to the coaches and the team, they
take you out to pasture plunk you down in a chair and shoot ignore you. Damn, Nebraska, you're just a big ol' grandma football factory!
9. On June 6, 2010 Plaintiff experienced involuntary foot spasms and continued headaches. She was seen by Dr. Roth on June 7, 2010. He scheduled her for an MRI on June 8, 2010. The results of the June 8, 2010 were negative which is not unusual with what is described as a slow bleed inside Plaintiff's skull.
10. Plaintiff's headaches continued, her speech patterns worsened, she began to experience unusual memory loss, lost the ability to concentrate or multi-task, suffered vision blurriness and pain and weakness in her right leg, and experienced tremors and intermittent foot dragging on the right. Plaintiff lost her ability to function normally, particularly with her work as a trucking industry logistics coordinator.
SP: I love to take extravagant job titles and try to figure out what the people really do for a living. Trucking industry logistics coordinator, eh? Pretty fancy phrase for delivery woman, don'tcha think??
11. While Plaintiff was attempting to exercise at the YMCA on August 9, 2010, she became disoriented and could no longer exercise. She asked a friend for assistance and was taken home. Her right foot was again dragging, as it had been with increasing frequency during the previous weeks.
12. Plaintiff contacted her doctor and was instructed to go to the hospital emergency room right away. Her friend took her to Bryan LGH East emergency room. While there, Plaintiff underwent a CT scan and was directed to go to Bryan LGH West immediately. Plaintiff was admitted that afternoon for traumatic brain injury. Neurosurgeon David Tomes performed a left frontal temporoparietal supratentorial craniotomy for evacuation of subdural hematoma that evening.
SP: She walked around for two months with a dragging right foot? WTF!
13. Plaintiff also developed right shoulder pain following the incident, and on February 3, 2011, after recovering from brain surgery, underwent rotator cuff surgery to repair torn tendons.
SP: And seven months with a torn rotator cuff? Double WTF!
14. As a direct and proximate result of Plaintiff being knocked to the ground on June 2, 2010 she suffered the following injuries: A. Traumatic brain injury resulting in subdural hematoma (bleeding on the brain beneath the skull); and B. Right rotator cuff injury requiring surgery to repair tendons.
15. Plaintiff's injuries were due to the Defendants' negligence in one or more of the following particulars: A. The Defendants BPF and Beck offered a dangerous activity to unsuspecting participants and knew or should have known the participants would not understand or appreciate the dangers; B. The Defendants BPF and Beck failed to warn participants of the dangers of the gauntlet drill and, in fact, escalated the danger by encouraging aggressive physical contact;
SP: That's because when the gauntlet consists of a bunch of women between the ages of 40 and 80, it's not dangerous.
C. The Defendants BPF and Beck failed to properly supervise or instruct parties participating as pad holders regarding physical contact with the ball carriers; D. The Defendants BPF and Beck failed to provide participants with proper equipment, e.g., helmets, when they knew of the potential dangers associated with head trauma;
SP: Someday, when clinics for 66-year-old women require helmets for all of the participants, Beverly Morgan will be viewed as a pioneer. An incredibly clumsy pioneer, but a pioneer nonetheless.
E. The Defendants BPF and Beck failed to properly instruct the ball carriers on how to safely perform the drill; F. The Defendants BPF and Beck failed to come to the aid of Plaintiff following the incident, and failed to ensure Plaintiff was provided adequate medical treatment for her injuries, the immediate symptoms of which could have alerted medical personnel to a potentially serious medical condition requiring urgent medical attention;
SP: Injuries that an MRI didn't detect and whose symptoms took two full months to fully reveal themselves, but um, okay....
G. The Defendants BPF and Beck encouraged gauntlet drill pad holders to strike the ball carriers as they attempted to get through the gauntlet line; and
SP: Yep, that's a gauntlet line, all right!
H. The Defendants BPF and Beck continued the gauntlet drill and failed to stop it as the participants' encouraged aggressiveness increased.
SP: Yeah, they should have STOPPED THE WHOLE CLINIC because Beverly Morgan fell down!! What the hell, Nebraska coaches!
16. The action of the Defendants constituted willful misconduct, gross negligence, reckless misconduct, or a conscious flagrant indifference to the safety of Plaintiff.
SP: As best I can tell, the most gross negligence of the coaches is a complete rejection of the "three points of pressure" technique of carrying the football.
17. As a direct and proximate result of Defendants' negligence Plaintiff was ￼seriously injured as set forth in paragraphs 8 through 13 hereinabove and incurred medical and hospital bills which were fair, reasonable and necessary for the injuries and treatment (totaling $92,563.90).
￼18. As a further direct and proximate result of the negligence of the Defendants, Plaintiff experienced the following additional injuries and damages: A. Physical pain and suffering and loss of enjoyment of life in the past, present and future in an amount to be determined at trial; B. Loss of society, comfort and companionship; C. Future medical expenses in an amount to be determined at trial; D. Temporary and permanent physical impairment past, present and future in an amount to be determined at trial; E. Impairment of earning capacity in the past, present and future in an amount to be determined at trial; and F. Permanent scarring and disfigurement.
The lawsuit doesn't indicate Bo Pelini's personal involvement in the clinic, but I'm guessing once Beverly Morgan finds out about Coach Pelini's temper, she might want to rethink the whole lawsuit...
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Pelini's wrath will make her hematoma and torn rotator cuff feel like a Swedish massage.
Listen to Sean Pendergast on 1560 The Game from 6 a.m. to 11 a.m. weekdays, and watch the simulcast on Comcast 129 from 6 a.m. to 8 a.m. Also, follow him on Twitter at http://twitter.com/SeanCablinasian.