Multiple concussions landed Bears linebacker Hunter Hillenmeyer on injured reserved in 2010. After being told to not continue his career by Dr. Elizabeth Pieroth, a neurologist and the team’s concussion consultant, the Bears terminated the final year of Hillenmeyer’s contract last February.
Hillenmeyer was set to earn $1.8 million in base salary this season and, under the collective bargaining agreement, he was entitled to an injury benefit of up to 50 percent of that salary. Former Bears general manager Jerry Angelo and current general counsel Cliff Stein have denied that request, Brad Biggs of the Chicago Tribune reports.
Hillenmeyer believes the Bears are following orders from the NFL office.
“I was told by the Bears’ own independent neuro-psych doctor that I could not continue playing football,” Hillenmeyer said. “Just to be sure I was covering all my bases, I went to see (Dr. Robert) Cantu. He gave the same diagnosis: No more football.
“I filed the paperwork thinking it was a pretty open-and-shut deal. Now, I can’t point the finger directly at Cliff or Jerry because they might have just been following orders from the (NFL Management Council), but they could have just agreed to the claim and it would have been done.”
Hillenmeyer has filed a grievance against the Bears and the NFL. He’s not the only one fighting the league for benefits and salary. Cincinnati Bengals tight end Ben Utecht has a similar grievance case and Biggs reports the NFLPA has informed agents that multiple teams have denied players’ claims. Two teams, the Atlanta Falcons and Washington Redskins, are attempting to have players with concussion histories sign injury waivers in regards to head injuries.
The NFL has paid lip service to raising concussion awareness and prevention, but all of that is empty talk if the league ignores or is slow to provide the financial assistance that players sent to an early retirement by head injuries are entitled to.