Former Patriots and Dolphins linebacker says NFL is ‘waiting for us to die’

“We’re the players who built the game, but have been forgotten."

Nick Buoniconti (85) helps make a tackle for the then-Boston Patriots in 1962.
Nick Buoniconti (85) helps make a tackle for the then-Boston Patriots in 1962. –AP Photo/Bill Chaplis

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Before Dont’a Hightower or Tedy Bruschi were the Patriots’ playmaking linebackers, there was Springfield native Nick Buoniconti. And after seven seasons in New England, Buoniconti went on to achieve his highest level of fame as a member of the undefeated 1972 Dolphins (winning a second Super Bowl in 1973).

Yet in 2017, at 76-years-old, the former middle linebacker is struggling with familiar issues for retired NFL players. He has memory loss (and can’t remember how to tie a tie), balance issues, as well as other physical problems derived from what he said were as many as 500,000 hits to the head during his football career. And in a new feature by S.L. Price for The MMQB, Buoniconti described his thoughts on how the NFL is reacting to the problem of aging league veterans coping with lingering health issues.

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“I feel for these guys,” Buoniconti said of fellow retired players, many of whom are struggling to pay for urgent healthcare. “They have no direction. It’s not fair that you make the league all this money, and they don’t care about you anymore. You think they care about a player who no longer can contribute to their financial success? Come on.”

In regards to the recent settlement between the league and retired players, Buoniconti—who graduated from Suffolk University Law School—has no patience for the league dragging its feet.

“We’re the players who built the game, but have been forgotten,” he told Price. “The settlement is a joke; the way it was structured is a joke. They are waiting for us to die. They’re going to play the clock out until everybody dies.”