Vernon Davis took Roger Goodell to task Friday during the NFL commissioner's press conference ahead of Super Bowl XLVIII. The San Francisco 49ers tight end took the microphone and asked Goodell "why doesn't the NFL offer free healthcare for life, especially for those suffering from brain injury?"
Goodell responded by saying "I think that the health benefits that are provided to current NFL players are the best in the world." One should note that Goodell used the word "current." NBA and MLB players are eligible for lifetime healthcare packages, but NFL health benefits don't extend past five years after retirement if a player has played at least three seasons.
Goodell emphasized that the current benefits package was discussed with the NFL Players Association extensively. A collective bargaining agreement between players and NFL owners was agreed upon in 2011, and the current healthcare plan is an extension of that agreement.
Goodell also mentioned the 88 Plan, which provides lifetime assistance for eligible players suffering from dementia, ALS or Parkinson's disease. The plan provides up to $88,000 per year in assistance, but requires a diagnosis and can't help players who may be suffering from more moderate forms of mental illness that may stem from their playing days.
Considering the violence inherent in football, especially relative to baseball and basketball, it's surprising that the health benefits provided to players aren't more comprehensive. The lack of lifetime benefits may be the fault of the players' union as much as NFL league leadership.