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Mike Karney Talks about Concussions and BountyGate

2012 June 23
by Paul Anderson

Mike Karney retired from the NFL in February, and he just wrapped up a week at the NFL’s Broadcast Bootcamp. Karney’s transition to life after the game has been relatively smooth. He and his wife run a successful real estate business in Arizona.

Karney and I initially started a conversation on Twitter discussing the concussion lawsuits:




Karney was en route to California so he told me to call him.

Joe Horn filed a lawsuit against the NFL in December. Karney said that he does not plan on joining the lawsuits, but he is concerned about his future health. “I try to be proactive” and he believes “players should seek help” if they are having issues. Karney tweeted this message after learning the news about Seau’s suicide:


During his last year in the League, Karney sought counseling after feeling down about the lack of playing time. He suggested that the League and NFLPA should provide an “exit symposium” where a player is required to go through a battery of tests before they receive their severance pay. “Guys need to be informed that concussions can have a lasting impact on your health,” he said.

Karney said he only had one documented concussion, but he had “tons of sub-concussive blows.” On numerous occasions, Karney recalls playing with his “eyes crossed.” The problem he said, though, is “you don’t want to tell a trainer you had a concussion because there is always somebody out there ready to take your position.”

He thinks the League and NFLPA should adopt a rule that prohibits a player from being cut in the middle of the season due to concussions. He also vehemently disagrees with the adoption of a clause waiving a player’s right to sue the League, saying that’s an example of the NFL wielding its “power and money.”


Karney was recently implicated in the bounty gate scandal. According to the NFL’s evidence, a slideshow implies that Karney was a named target.

Karney said he was honored to be on the Saints’ hit list, but the “personal information” clearly shows that “this was orchestrated by management and not the players.” The “personal information” relates to the “classless” move of being released on the night before Karney’s wedding rehearsal.

As Professor Michael McCann opined about the potential legal fallout over bounty gate, the State of Louisiana could brings criminal charges against the Saints coaches and players for (1) conspiracy to commit battery against Karney; (2) criminal negligence and (3) battery.

In addition, Karney could bring a civil suit against the Saints, Gregg Williams, Sean Payton and/or any player that committed a tort against him. Karney’s legal theory would be based upon battery.

A prima facie case for battery requires (1) harmful or offensive contact; (2) to the plaintiff’s person; (3) intent; and (4) causation.

A battery claim could be filed against the Saints – who would be vicariously liable for the acts of its employees, i.e. the players – for intentionally causing a harmful or offensive touching to Karney. Battery does not require actual damages, and punitive damages are available if a plaintiff can prove malicious conduct.

Moreover, Karney could sue Williams and Payton for battery under a concert-of-action theory, which does not require a defendant to personally engage in the harmful or offensive touching. Karney would just have to show that Williams and Payton aided or encouraged the players to commit the battery.

The fact that Williams was the ringleader of this system, and his employers allegedly were aware of his actions, bolsters a claim that the Saints ratified Williams’ actions.

I did not discuss this potential liability with Karney.

Karney thinks the punishment against the players is completely wrong, but the coaches and management deserved to be hit hard, saying that it was “driven by the ego and arrogance of Gregg Williams.”

Although Karney was allegedly targeted, he said it was never acted upon. After watching the game again last night, there was “never a time that a Saints’ player tried to put an illegal hit on me,” Karney said.

While playing for the Saints, Karney does admit to a “pool of money” that the special teams would use to help spice up the game. Although a violation of Article 13 of the CBA, Karney said the money was rewarded strictly for legal blocks and kick returns. “It was an intent to motivate, not an intent to hurt.”

In any event, Karney has moved on and is ready for bigger and better things.

Karney has a bright future after the game, and I wouldn’t be surprised if we see him as a college football analyst in the near future. Or, perhaps he can replace Warren Sapp at the NFL Network.

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