George Martin: 'Strength in unity'

SECAUCUS, N.J. -- George Martin spent the weekend catching up with his former New York Giants teammates from the 1986 Super Bowl team.

But he also had his current job on his mind as well, as he checked on how many of his old teammates are feeling these days. Martin is the president of the NFL Alumni and he is frustrated that he has not been able to sit down with DeMaurice Smith, executive director of the decertified NFL Players Association, to talk about issues and concerns relating to retired players.

"There's strength in unity," Martin told reporters at the 25th anniversary celebration of the 1986 Giants Super Bowl team at the Meadowlands Expo Center on Sunday. "Apparently Mr. DeMaurice Smith feels that there isn't. I think it's an absolute shame when you have a person with my accomplishments and my commitment to not only active players but retired players, the fact that we can't sit down and at least discuss not only our similarities but our differences if there are any. I think that's a travesty."

Martin says he has reached out to Smith "on countless occasions to sit down."

"It's been either no response or no," Martin said. "That's really unacceptable. He has a very difficult challenge, I understand. But there should not be any prohibitions why we shouldn't sit down and talk about some of the things we have in common."

Martin was asked what degree of confidence he has concerning Smith having the best interests of NFL retired players in mind.

"I would have to say it is questionable at this point," Martin said. "When you do not have a conversation at this point with the recognized leader of NFL Alumni, how can you say you have the best interest of retired players at heart when you won't even sit down and talk to their leadership. That to me flies in the face of rationale."

Martin and teammate Harry Carson both said that some of their teammates are suffering from injuries suffered during their careers. Some retired players are feeling the lingering effects of concussions suffered during their playing days with loss of memory or, in some cases, depression.

"I thought the health of guys on the surface was pretty good," Carson said of the '86 Giants. "I do know, personally, that there are a couple of guys that have some issues. There are a couple of guys who have reached out to me in the past with these issues. There are some issues there and there are some issues with guys that probably don't know there are issues."

Martin praised NFL commissioner Roger Goodell for being proactive about addressing the concussion situation and helping retired players deal with any issues they may have.

"It seems as if though in the past we have been treated like second-class citizens," Martin said. "We refuse to have that label placed upon us now. Thank goodness that we have had some welcome embrace by Roger Goodell and the current owners. We like the fact that that we are part of the overall discussion and I'm very optimistic we will obtain some significant quality of life issues relative to retired players -- most significant is the pension.

"I think eventually the vast majority of retired ball players will be pleasantly surprised by what will come out of this (new) CBA."

Ohm Youngmisuk covers the Giants for ESPNNewYork.com.