The Pro Football Concussion Report

A Fan's Look at Head Injuries and the Concussion Crisis in Football

Forrest Gregg Inducted into the Hall of Covington?

Forrest Gregg
NFL Hall of Famer and current Big Pharma Spokesman Forrest Gregg (AP)


It was interesting to read  last week that Hall of Fame lineman Forrest Gregg, despite suffering from Parkinson’s disease would not sue the NFL. First on the NFL’s Twitter feed, and later in USA Today, and then in the Seattle Times,, Miami Herald, ESPN, Sporting News, etc.  Although Gregg’s neurologist, Dr. Rajeev Kumar, does in fact blame repeated blows from football for Gregg’s condition, Gregg himself says he’s an “independent type” and “I don’t need anything from anybody but what I earned.” Okay, that seems admirable enough. Genuine old school, tough independent guy – the kinda guy actor Clint Eastwood has made a huge career out of pretending to be. But typically, choosing to not do something doesn’t gather that many headlines. Perhaps it does though when it’s part of a coordinated campaign of a pharmaceutical giant, the NFL, and their common denominator Washington D.C. law firm Covington Burling.

The all-time great Green Bay Packers offensive lineman, the player whom Vince Lombardi once called “the finest player I ever coached” is making his remarks as part of a promotional effort for UCB, Inc.’s film series “Parkinson’s More Than Motion.”  UCB, Inc. is a giant international pharmaceutical company that specializes in drugs for Parkinson’s, epilepsy and Chrohn’s. They also developed and make one of the biggest selling drugs in the world, the antihistamine Zyrtec. And not that surprisingly, as a giant pharmaceutical company that gets embroiled in multi-national legal battles, UCB, Inc. counts on the same experts at Covington Burling as the NFL does to keep their various lawsuits and government regulated actions down to a manageable amount. Recently attorneys at Covington were able to settle federal felony criminal charges for mislabeling drugs against UCB, Inc. resulting only in a guilty plea to misdemeanor charges, a modest $34 million dollar fine and an agreement to “participate in a corporate integrity agreement.

That’s the kind of “seamless, integrated advice” Covington Burling offers their clients. For UCB, the law firm was even able to help forge an “innovative research alliance” with Harvard University. UCB will provide funding and expertise to scientists at Harvard who will work on “specific research projects.”  This effort should likely produce a nice published paper, peer review-ready and authored by Harvard professors. Seems familiar. The NFL has had a tight relationship with the big law firm for over 50 years. The league used the firm as early as the 1960’s as the upstart AFL threatened the more established NFL’s bottom line and could have potentially caused Congressional anti-monopoly action. More recently, the law firm has provided some of the league’s most important and highest paid employees. Paul Tagliabue is was a partner at Covington before and after his reign as league commissioner. It’s conceivable that Tagliabue has earned between $50 and $100 million dollars from the NFL. Current NFL General Counsel and league Vice-President Jeff Pash is also a Covington alum. In 2011 Pash was reportedly paid $9 million from the NFL. And his continued public speaking opportunities suggest he could be preparing for a larger role. Speaking of larger and more lucrative roles, current NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell’s closest competition in the 2006 run for NFL Commissioner was Covington partner Gregg Levy. Levy was also an integral part of the negotiation team for the league’s current CBA. Perhaps Covington’s “seamless, integrated advice” was able to merge clients UCB and the NFL into a mutually beneficial position. Although Gregg says he’s fine to get by on his NFL pension, if he’s even earned $1 from his role speaking on behalf of Covington pharma client UCB, Inc. that’s $1 more than the 4,181 former players have earned from the lawsuit as of April 25, 2013.

It’s nice to see Gregg and his wife and hear their personal story about their journey with this illness.  It’s not as nice to hear his remarks that although he doesn’t begrudge former NFL players that are suing the league, “I never believed in somebody else being responsible for my life and for my well-being.” Unfortunately he’s doing a disservice to many of his fellow players who are suing the league by implying that they want something that they don’t deserve or didn’t earn. Something like adequate and appropriate healthcare for longterm injuries suffered while playing for the NFL. Is that something the independent-minded Gregg doesn’t think he deserves?

Related Story: The Boys of Covington

Related Story: Why Did Paul Tagliabue Choose Dr. Elliot Pellman?

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