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Hall of Fame blocker is on a crusade for NFL retirees
STEVE DeSHAZO: DeLamielleuere crusading for retired NFL players

Date published: 7/15/2007

By Steve DeShazo

UNLIKE MANY of his peers, Joe DeLamielleuere didn't need a cane or a walker when he visited Fredericksburg yesterday. But the Hall of Famer might need something other retired NFL players don't: a bodyguard.

DeLamielleuere, who blocked for O.J. Simpson during his glory days in Buffalo, has been one of the most outspoken critics of NFL Players Union boss Gene Upshaw. He feels the union isn't doing nearly enough to take care of the men who helped build the league into a billion-dollar business.

In response, Upshaw told The Philadelphia Daily News last month: "A guy like DeLamielleuere says the things he said about me, you think I'm going to invite him to dinner? No, I'm going to break his --- damn neck."

DeLamielleuere yesterday called that "an irresponsible statement," but that doesn't mean he's not taking it seriously--not with a wife and nine children (four of them adopted). And not when he and his wife grew up in Detroit, where unions don't mess around. He's genuinely worried more about his loved ones than himself.

Still, it's hard to find anyone who doesn't support DeLamielleuere's cause--except perhaps Upshaw and the 1,800 active players he represents.

"We've got the greatest game in the world, with the worst pension and disability [benefits]," DeLamielleuere said during a visit to the Card Cellar at Four-Mile Fork with fellow Hall of Famer Lem Barney.

"If I were a current player, I would educate myself on what these [retired] guys are complaining about. These are the guys who built this league."

What they're complaining about is a pension system that averages less than $13,000 a year per man. The NFL told The Associated Press last month that it pays out $126 million annually in pension and post-career disability benefits, but that only 317 out of more than 10,000 eligible players received disability payments last year.

Football is a violent game that pays well (in the short term), but can leave permanent damage to the body and brain.

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