After settlement, ex-Ram Farr fears for future

Former St. Louis Rams defensive tackle D'Marco Farr isn't on the list of more than 4,500 plaintiffs who settled their concussion-related lawsuit with the NFL in a deal announced Thursday. That doesn't mean he hasn't thought about it.

"Every day I thought about it," said Farr, who played from 1994 to 2000. "Here’s the thing and this is why I don’t know if I’m right or wrong: I don’t think I have any problems. I don’t think I’m having the same problems that this guy is and I don’t want to be one of those people that is trying to get in on some case just to get paid. I’d rather go out and work hard for it, you know what I mean? I’d feel bad if I went up there and I don’t feel like I have symptoms, I might be taking money away from a guy that does.

"That’s why I wasn’t a part of it. But the thing that scares me about the settlement and everything else, I don’t know what’s going to happen to me next year or what’s going to happen to me in 10 years. I don’t know if this is the way Junior Seau felt 10 years before he shot himself, so that’s the only concern."

The order from U.S. District Judge Anita Brody outlined a proposed $765 million settlement that has drawn mixed reaction from current and former players. It will pay about a third of the living former players, but Farr isn't one of them.

Farr retired after a seven-year career in which he went to a Pro Bowl and started for the Super Bowl XXXIV champions. Today, he's a sports talk-show host on ESPN radio in St. Louis and serves as the color analyst for Rams game broadcasts. He has pain in his knees and joints and gets an occasional migraine headache, but he said he has no noticeable signs of lingering concussion symptoms from head trauma.

When I spoke to Farr about the issue Thursday evening, he brought up an interesting point about the timing of the agreement. He understands the basics of the deal, but I got the sense he felt like it was a little too easy, like the NFL was hiding a secret that would make this agreement seem like a bargain.

"It just seems kind of, all kind of right that it would all come out right now before you get exposed," Farr said. "You might as well settle it before you get embarrassed and exposed. So, I don’t know. That’s the only thing I’m concerned with. I’m happy for the guys that are going through things and they are going to get that money and that care, but I really, really want to know what the NFL is not telling me about me."

I've known Farr for a long time and, in the interest of full disclosure, I consider him a friend. After talking to him, it's hard not to wonder if he's not far enough removed to see the big picture or what type of ailments his future may hold.

Playing defensive tackle meant a collision with another large man on every play, collisions that might be categorized as concussions but at the time were just thought of as part of the game.

"Back in the day, when concussions were funny and they’re not funny now; concussions were when you got knocked unconscious," Farr said. "If you are unconscious, you probably have a concussion. Now they’re saying you feel like you got your bell rung and that’s a concussion, or if you say you feel dizzy, you’ve got a concussion. Well, that’s almost every snap. That’s just the way it went in the trenches, it was just an accepted part of the job."

As Slim Charles from "The Wire" might say, "the thing about the old days -- they the old days." Today's NFL has evolved to where doctors stand on the sidelines and have final say about whether a player has a concussion and can return to a game.

Farr jokes that, without the benefit of those cross-checks, he either had 20 concussions or none at all. The reality? The answer is probably closer to 20 than zero. Even with that knowledge, Farr opted not to join fellow alumni in the lawsuit.

"I had some very real talks with friends and family," Farr said. "I said ‘You guys need to tell me, am I crazy? Tell me because I might not know. Do I forget things?’ I think I have a pretty good grasp on who everyone is and phone numbers of where I live and stuff like that, but I don’t know. As of right now, I didn’t and don’t feel like I need the NFL to take care of me post-career."

Here's hoping it stays that way.