Ben Utecht's football career is still over. But there is a somewhat happy ending to it all, which included ups (a Super Bowl ring with the Colts in 2007) and downs (multiple concussions).
Utecht won his injury grievance case against the Cincinnati Bengals, an arbitrator ruled on Wednesday.
Utecht, the former Gophers football tight end from Hastings, sustained a career-ending concussion during training camp in 2009 while with the Bengals. He was released later that fall, and retired soon after.
"The arbitrator ruled Utecht should not have been cleared by the Bengals given that he "had not been sufficiently tested, both in his aerobic and strength reconditioning program, nor had he been tested in sport-specific activities, which would be a more accurate means of determining whether the damage caused by the concussion had 'cleared.' "
The NFL Players Association filed an injury grievance and argued Utecht should have been paid his salary for the period of time he remained injured and unable to play as a result of the concussion.
"This decision upholds our players' rights to continued salary payments while injured and should provide important guidance for players and clubs in determining when it is appropriate to return to play after a player suffers a severe concussion," Tim English, the NFLPA attorney who handled Utecht's case, said in a statement released by the players' union.
NFL spokesman Greg Aiello released the following statement: "The decision demonstrates that our collective bargaining agreements provide players with comprehensive remedies for football-related injuries, including injuries related to concussions."
Utecht, who still experiences concussion symptoms, sounded relieved that the dispute has come to a close.
"Three years later, my family and I have closure with the successful conclusion of my contract dispute," Utecht said in a statement released on his behalf by the NFLPA. "We are grateful for the support we have received from all of our friends in professional football and beyond. I will continue to help the NFL in any way I can to educate people about brain safety and the seriousness of this issue."
USA Today reported the remainder of Utecht's 2009 salary to be $926,471.
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