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Steve Gilliard, 1964-2007

It is with tremendous sadness that we must convey the news that Steve Gilliard, editor and publisher of The News Blog, passed away June 2, 2007. He was 42.

To those who have come to trust The News Blog and its insightful, brash and unapologetic editorial tone, we have Steve to thank from the bottom of our hearts. Steve helped lead many discussions that mattered to all of us, and he tackled subjects and interest categories where others feared to tread.

Please keep Steve's friends and family in your thoughts and prayers.

Steve meant so much to us.

We will miss him terribly.

photo by lindsay beyerstein


The dark side of the NFL

Those hits add up

Long After His Retirement, Morris Still Making Claims
Ex-Dolphin Fighting for Benefits That He Believes Are Due

By Les Carpenter
Washington Post Staff Writer
Sunday, January 28, 2007; Page E01

PRINCETON, Fla. He always found comfort in the lonely fight.

Eugene "Mercury" Morris, a star running back for the 1972 Miami Dolphins, has a favorite movie: "To Kill a Mockingbird." He has watched it countless times, ever engrossed by the fix that was in for Tom Robinson, an African American man accused of raping a white woman in an early-20th century Alabama town. In the heavy, hopeless air of that courtroom, Tom Robinson sits by himself facing a system too big to beat with only his lawyer, Atticus Finch, at his side.

"The guy was on trial where he simply could not win," Morris said.

At night, in a two-story house half an hour south of Miami, Mercury Morris sits at his kitchen table and sees himself as a real-life Tom Robinson fighting all alone. He is 60 years old, and football has left him with a spine that had to be fused together with pieces of a dead man's bone. Several doctors have told him the injury has destroyed important nerves and this gives him, on occasion, debilitating headaches that drive him to the bedroom in the middle of the day, where he must pull down the blinds and pile towels across his face

He also said that the National Football League, or more specifically, its retirement plan, will not acknowledge that the headaches are a result of the injury and thus is denying him benefits he believes are his. He will not accept this explanation. And for the last 20 years, he has waged a one-man war against the plan.

"Which is just the way I like it," he said.

This is an issue gaining momentum among the league's retired players, especially those hitting middle age as old injuries turn into more debilitating problems and who feel the retirement plan is not helping them with mounting medical bills. And at this Miami Super Bowl, it seems to be a topic the league would rather go away.

Late last year, an appeals court awarded the estate of former Pittsburgh Steelers center Mike Webster more than $1.5 million in disability pay from the plan. It was the first successful challenge of the plan's rules and it has given hope to many of the players who feel left out.

Which was all Morris needed.

Because there also is this about Mercury Morris, who is second in NFL history among running backs with an average of 5.14 yards per carry: He is obsessive. The kitchen table is strewn with legal documents obtained by Freedom of Information requests; they spill over to the counter and up to the sink. He has read them so many times he can quote from them precisely without even looking.

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