Bengals’ Utecht Awarded Full-Year Pay in NFL Concussion Case

Former Cincinnati Bengals tight end Ben Utecht has been awarded a year’s salary in arbitration over his 2009 release after suffering a concussion.

The National Football League Players Association argued that Utecht, 32, hadn’t fully recovered and should have been paid for as long as it took him to return to the field after the training-camp injury.

Arbitrator Richard Kasher said the Bengals failed to test the player sufficiently, particularly in sports-specific activities, before he was released and awarded him the remainder of his salary for that season, according to the union. Association spokeswoman Jilane Rogers said she didn’t know how much money was involved.

“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, an attorney for the NFLPA, said in a statement.

The ruling will probably make it harder for teams to cut injured players following brain injuries without rigorous testing.

“The decision demonstrates that our collective bargaining agreements provide players with comprehensive remedies for football-related injuries, including injuries related to concussions,” NFL spokesman Greg Aiello said in an e-mail.

Concussion Cases

The NFL, the most popular U.S. sports league, is being sued by thousands of former players who have accused it of negligence and failing to inform them of the link between repeated traumatic head impact and long-term brain injuries.

U.S. District Judge Anita Brody in Philadelphia this week ordered the league and retired players to enter into settlement talks with Layn Phillips, a former federal judge, as mediator. She has asked for a progress report on talks by Sept. 3.

The case is In re National Football Players’ Concussion Injury Litigation, 12-md-02323, U.S. District Court, Eastern District of Pennsylvania (Philadelphia).

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