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Thread: Ray Lucas, in constant agony from his NFL injuries, hopes neck surgery heals him

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    Ray Lucas, in constant agony from his NFL injuries, hopes neck surgery heals him

    [B]Ray Lucas, in constant agony from his NFL injuries, hopes neck surgery heals him ... and his family[/B]

    [COLOR=black]BY [URL="http://www.nydailynews.com/authors/Michael%20O%27Keeffe"]Michael O'Keeffe[/URL]

    DAILY NEWS SPORTS WRITER [/COLOR]

    [COLOR=black]Saturday, September 11th 2010, 2:42 PM[/COLOR]

    [COLOR=black] Ray Lucas lays across the backseat and drops F-bombs when the black SUV hits potholes and bumps as it rumbles through Midtown rush hour traffic. Sunglasses shield his eyes from the early morning glare.[/COLOR]

    [COLOR=black]Lucas doesn't drink, but he looks like he is nursing an especially bad hangover. He is tired and irritable. His face twists into a pained grimace as the car rolls across the [URL="http://www.nydailynews.com/topics/Queensboro+Bridge"]Queensboro Bridge[/URL].[/COLOR]

    [COLOR=black]"If it wasn't for the Cuban, I would have jumped off this bridge a long time ago," Lucas moans as he points to his wife, Cecy, the slim, pretty Cuban-American woman sitting in the middle row of the SUV. "If it weren't for her and the kids, I might have killed myself or somebody else by now."[/COLOR]

    [COLOR=black]Lucas and Cecy are on their way to [URL="http://www.nydailynews.com/topics/Franklin+Hospital+Corporation"]Franklin Hospital[/URL] in [URL="http://www.nydailynews.com/topics/Valley+Stream"]Valley Stream[/URL], L.I., on this bright late-August morning, to prepare for the neck surgery Lucas is scheduled to undergo on Wednesday. They hope the operation will alleviate the unbearable pain that has sidelined the former Jets quarterback since he retired from the NFL in 2003. They hope it heals their family, too. Cecy hopes she gets her husband back. The couple's three daughters - Rayven, 15, [URL="http://www.nydailynews.com/topics/Madison"]Madison[/URL], 10, and Kayla, 8 - hope they get their father back.[/COLOR]

    [COLOR=black]The impinged nerves in Lucas' neck, caused by the injuries that are an inevitable part of [URL="http://www.nydailynews.com/topics/United+States"]America[/URL]'s most brutal sport, have put him on the disabled list at the family's [URL="http://www.nydailynews.com/topics/Harrison+%28New+Jersey%29"]Harrison, N.J.[/URL] home. The muscles in his back spasm. His head aches. Sciatica stabs his legs. The pain is so overwhelming that Lucas sometimes doesn't get out of bed for days at a time, feeding his crushing depression. He misses school functions and family gatherings. He doesn't return calls from longtime friends because he's dopey from pain medications.

    He snaps at his children for minor infractions, like leaving the refrigerator door open too long. Almost all the household chores - chauffeuring the kids to basketball games, mowing the lawn - fall on Cecy. He wonders how Cecy puts up with him.[/COLOR]

    [COLOR=black]"If I were her, I would have left a long time ago," he says. "All the responsibilities at home are on her. It's hard on the ego - you're unable to be there for your family. You start to think 'What kind of man are you?

    What happened to you?' You start thinking that everybody would be better off without you."[/COLOR]

    [COLOR=black]Lucas has been a broadcaster since 2006 and he makes it look easy when he talks football on [URL="http://www.nydailynews.com/topics/SportsNet+New+York"]SNY[/URL] or [URL="http://www.nydailynews.com/topics/ESPN+Inc."]ESPN Radio[/URL] or the [URL="http://www.nydailynews.com/topics/Rutgers+University"]Rutgers[/URL] Radio Network. On the air, he's sharp and concise. He's a good-looking guy who speaks with authority and is a real student of the game. But getting up for the job takes all his emotional and physical strength, and when his work week is over, he collapses.[/COLOR]

    Lucas says he sought assistance from organizations that aid retired players, but became increasingly bitter when they told him there was nothing they could do for him. Many former players say the NFL's disability and retirement plan, which is run jointly by the league and the union, is designed not to assist players debilitated by injuries suffered during their careers, but to stonewall them. It's almost impossible, some say, to even get union officials to simply return a phone call.

    [COLOR=black]Help finally arrived this summer, when he contacted Pain Alternatives, Solutions and Treatments, a [URL="http://www.nydailynews.com/topics/New+Jersey"]New Jersey[/URL]-based medical group that uses surgery, chiropractic care, counseling and other disciplines to treat chronic pain.[/COLOR]

    [COLOR=black]PAST's Retired Athletes Medical Resource Group, which offers pro bono care to former players like Lucas who lack health insurance because they are unemployed or employed parttime and can't afford the prohibitive premiums, asked [URL="http://www.nydailynews.com/topics/Sebastian+Lattuga"]Sebastian Lattuga[/URL], an orthopedic surgeon, and Franklin Hospital, part of the [URL="http://www.nydailynews.com/topics/North+Shore-Long+Island+Jewish+Health+System"]North Shore-Long Island Jewish Health System[/URL], to perform the neck surgery.[/COLOR]

    [COLOR=black]Both are part of the PAST network.[/COLOR]

    [COLOR=black]"I was at the end of my rope," Lucas says. "I can't believe I'm finally getting help."[/COLOR]

    [COLOR=black]PAST has provided more than $1.7 million in pro bono surgeries, tests, counseling and other medical services since it began offering care to NFL retirees last year. [URL="http://www.nydailynews.com/topics/William+Focazio"]William Focazio[/URL], PAST's chief executive officer and co-founder, has picked up most of the bills. The medical group has also developed relationships with the [URL="http://www.nydailynews.com/topics/National+Basketball+Association"]NBA[/URL] and [URL="http://www.nydailynews.com/topics/Major+League+Baseball"]Major League Baseball[/URL] alumni associations.[/COLOR]

    [COLOR=black]"The impact that PAST has on improving the lives of retired NFL players has exceeded our expectations," says [URL="http://www.nydailynews.com/topics/Greg+Marotta"]Greg Marotta[/URL], PAST's co-founder and executive director. "We are committed to providing comprehensive medical care customized to meet the unique needs of all retired athletes."[/COLOR]

    [COLOR=black]PAST's doctors will not only try to treat Lucas' neck and teach him how to manage his pain, they'll try to salve is fractured family, too.[/COLOR]

    [COLOR=black]"The spouses who stick with retired players when they are suffering through all this pain are the unsung heroes," says [URL="http://www.nydailynews.com/topics/Jennifer+Smith"]Jennifer Smith[/URL], PAST's director of player programs and a longtime advocate for retired players.

    "What we try to do is give them the tools to deal with their husbands in an effective way. They see that their husbands are acting odd or withdrawn, but they often don't understand that it's because of their injuries, or because of the pills they take to deal with their pain."[/COLOR]

    [COLOR=black]Cecy fidgets in her seat and smiles as the SUV heads to the hospital. She is as sunny this morning as her husband is grouchy. Cecy says she's not going anywhere, but she admits that there are times when she feels like she has lost her husband to his pain and depression. "I felt like I couldn't help him anymore," she says. "You try to be as nice as you can be, but you get pissed off. Your husband is in so much pain and there's nothing you can do about it."[/COLOR]

    [COLOR=black]Lucas says he knows Cecy didn't marry him because of his NFL fame.

    They've known each other since they were kids, and they started dating when they were both students at [URL="http://www.nydailynews.com/topics/Harrison+High+School"]Harrison High School[/URL]. Cecy was one year older and a little taller.[/COLOR]

    [COLOR=black]"He would follow me everywhere and knock the books out of my hands," Cecy giggles over lunch at the Franklin Hospital cafeteria.

    "The first time I kissed her, it was a mercy kiss," Lucas laughs. "I had an Afro and braces and I think she felt sorry for me. It was like, 'If I kiss you this one time, will you leave me alone?'"[/COLOR]

    [COLOR=black]Lucas was a star basketball and football player at Harrison, and although he was recruited by bigtime schools - [URL="http://www.nydailynews.com/topics/Penn+State+Nittany+Lions+%28Football%29"]Penn State[/URL], [URL="http://www.nydailynews.com/topics/Syracuse"]Syracuse[/URL], [URL="http://www.nydailynews.com/topics/Virginia"]Virginia[/URL], [URL="http://www.nydailynews.com/topics/Wake+Forest+University"]Wake Forest[/URL] - he chose Rutgers. "I'm a Jersey guy," Lucas says. "I'm loyal."[/COLOR]

    [COLOR=black]Lucas was not selected in the 1996 NFL draft, but [URL="http://www.nydailynews.com/topics/Bill+Parcells"]Bill Parcells[/URL] invited him to participate in the [URL="http://www.nydailynews.com/topics/New+England+Patriots"]New England Patriots[/URL]' training camp that year. Lucas made the club as a special teams player.[/COLOR]

    [COLOR=black]When Parcells signed on as the Jets' coach in 1997, he brought Lucas with him. Lucas' most memorable season was 1999, when starting quarterback [URL="http://www.nydailynews.com/topics/Vinny+Testaverde"]Vinny Testaverde[/URL] ruptured his Achilles tendon in the opener against the Patriots and was lost for the season. Parcells, whose Jets were 1-6 under second-stringer [URL="http://www.nydailynews.com/topics/Rick+Mirer"]Rick Mirer[/URL], gave the starting job to Lucas, who salvaged Gang Green's season by going 6-3 in nine starts.[/COLOR]

    [COLOR=black]"It was such a great experience, watching Ray live his dream to play in the NFL," Cecy says. "I had been watching him since he was in [URL="http://www.nydailynews.com/topics/Pop+Warner+Little+Scholars+Inc."]Pop Warner[/URL] football. He always had so much heart."[/COLOR]

    [COLOR=black]Lucas also played for the [URL="http://www.nydailynews.com/topics/Miami+Dolphins"]Miami Dolphins[/URL] and [URL="http://www.nydailynews.com/topics/Baltimore+Ravens"]Baltimore Ravens[/URL] during his NFL career, which came to a frighteningly abrupt halt in 2003. Lucas sneezed during a Ravens practice and couldn't feel his legs. The feeling soon returned, but when coach [URL="http://www.nydailynews.com/topics/Brian+Billick"]Brian Billick[/URL] and general manager [URL="http://www.nydailynews.com/topics/Ozzie+Newsome"]Ozzie Newsome[/URL] told him to report to them with his playbook, he immediately knew his eight-year NFL career was over.[/COLOR]

    [COLOR=black]Injuries are a part of life in the NFL, Lucas says, and players learn to play with pain. "I took more pain pills than a cancer patient," he says. "You get bags of stuff but they don't tell you what it is. They just tell you when to take it."[/COLOR]

    [COLOR=black]Lucas says he had money in the bank when he retired, but his savings evaporated quickly because of the cost of the pain medication he still needs. He says he was spending $1,800 to $2,200 a month on prescription drugs. The PAST doctors had to wean him from some of those drugs before Wednesday's operation, since mixing anesthesia with painkillers can be fatal.[/COLOR]

    [COLOR=black]* * *[/COLOR]

    [COLOR=black]When Cecy and Lucas arrive at [URL="http://www.nydailynews.com/topics/Franklin+Hospital+for+X-rays"]Franklin Hospital for X-rays[/URL] and a pre-operative consultation with director of medicine [URL="http://www.nydailynews.com/topics/Jack+Rubenstein"]Jack Rubenstein[/URL], a woman sitting in a waiting area recognizes the former quarterback and asks to shake his "million-dollar hand."[/COLOR]

    [COLOR=black]Lucas smiles at her, but later, he says she's got it all wrong. "Only five guys on a roster make the big money," he says. "NFL stands for 'Not For Long.'

    For most guys, there is life after football and you have to support your family."[/COLOR]

    [COLOR=black]After meeting with Rubenstein and a quick cigarette break - Lucas says he will try to kick his half-a-pack-a-day habit before his surgery - the couple is back in the SUV and off to Lattuga's [URL="http://www.nydailynews.com/topics/New+Hyde+Park"]New Hyde Park[/URL] office.[/COLOR]

    [COLOR=black]Lattuga tells Lucas that he will probably not be completely pain free, but he believes the operation, coupled with physical therapy and pain management counseling, will greatly improve the former quarterback's quality of life.[/COLOR]

    [COLOR=black]"You can't escape the issue that he has something wrong with his spine as a result of playing in the NFL," Lattuga says. "But I'm optimistic about the procedure."[/COLOR]

    [COLOR=black]So is Ray Lucas. One his health improves, he hopes he can spend more time working. He'd love a fulltime, year-round radio or TV gig. Getting paid to talk about sports? That's almost as good as playing in the NFL.[/COLOR]

    [COLOR=black]But mostly, he wants to be a better husband and a better father.[/COLOR]

    [COLOR=black]"I've lost so much because of this pain and depression, but it's nothing that can't be replaced," he says. "I've still got my wife and my kids, and as long as I have them, I have something to keep me going."[/COLOR]

    [B][COLOR=black]FOLLOW LUCAS ONLINE:[/COLOR][/B][COLOR=black] PAST, the New Jersey medical group that provides health care to uninsured and indigent NFL retirees, will post updates on Ray Lucas' progress following his surgery on Wednesday. The site - [URL="http://pastpain.com/const/pastpain/"]PASTUSA.com[/URL] - also has videos of [URL="http://www.nydailynews.com/topics/Randy+Grimes"]Randy Grimes[/URL], [URL="http://www.nydailynews.com/topics/Christian+Okoye"]Christian Okoye[/URL], [URL="http://www.nydailynews.com/topics/Woody+Green"]Woody Green[/URL], [URL="http://www.nydailynews.com/topics/Charlie+Brown"]Charlie Brown[/URL] and other ex-players who have been helped by PAST.[/COLOR]
    [COLOR=black]


    Read more: [URL="http://www.nydailynews.com/sports/football/jets/2010/09/11/2010-09-11_end_zone_qb_counting_on_surgery_to_heal_him.html?page=1#ixzz0zKDwZtpm"][COLOR=#003399]http://www.nydailynews.com/sports/football/jets/2010/09/11/2010-09-11_end_zone_qb_counting_on_surgery_to_heal_him.html?page=1#ixzz0zKDwZtpm[/COLOR][/URL][/COLOR]

  2. #2
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    For me this should be the major demand of the players in their CBA negotiations. Sadly it will boil down to contracts for its currant players. Former players are an after thought of both owners and players.:(

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    Both the NFL and the players union should be ashamed of this situation.

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    One of my favorite Jets ever even though I find him a little annoying on SNY now and then. Too bad Mirer wasn't yanked earlier that year and Leon Johnson threw that HB option pick against the Lions in the final game.

    Its understandable, when you read stories like this, why NFL players are so adamant about getting guaranteed money.

    I hope the surgery provides him some relief.

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    I hope Lucas gets relief from his suffering. My wife has very bad migraines on occasion, and I wouldn't wish pain like that on anyone...

  6. #6
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    Get better Ray.

    His wife is taller? Ray is 6'3":eek:

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    [QUOTE=BRONX JET;3727765]Get better Ray.

    His wife is taller? Ray is 6'3":eek:[/QUOTE]

    I think that was when they first started dating, that she was taller.

    Never knew this about Ray, guess that might explain some of his testy on air behavior (which I like).

  8. #8
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    [QUOTE=rlucas4137;3727750]One of my favorite Jets ever even though I find him a little annoying on SNY now and then. Too bad Mirer wasn't yanked earlier that year and Leon Johnson threw that HB option pick against the Lions in the final game.

    [B]Its understandable, when you read stories like this, why NFL players are so adamant about getting guaranteed money.
    [/B]
    I hope the surgery provides him some relief.[/QUOTE]

    Disagree.

    "I might get hurt playing for you, so GUARANTEE me millions and millions of dollars . . ."

    There should be generous insurance policies in place that account for any unforeseeable circumstances.

    But to just be given money you never actually earn . . . I just don't see it . . .

  9. #9
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    [QUOTE=OCCH;3727900]Disagree.

    "I might get hurt playing for you, so GUARANTEE me millions and millions of dollars . . ."

    There should be generous insurance policies in place that account for any unforeseeable circumstances.

    But to just be given money you never actually earn . . . I just don't see it . . .[/QUOTE]

    Not in faver of guaranted contracts but players need and should have injury coverage. New CBA should cover all living players and no cut-off based on era. Baseball did a garve injustice to its former players in this regard as well as pensions. Just my opinion.

  10. #10
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    [QUOTE=Bocajetfan68;3727915]Not in faver of guaranted contracts but players need and should have injury coverage. New CBA should cover all living players and no cut-off based on era. Baseball did a garve injustice to its former players in this regard as well as pensions. Just my opinion.[/QUOTE]

    I agree with the insurance coverage, though if players would be more responsible with what they got, many wouldn't even need it.

    But obviously there are cases of "fringe" players who gave their bodies up for the job and have little to show for it. Or Old-Timers who weren't able to cash in the way current athletes can.

    I'd have no problem with them being taken care of . . .

  11. #11
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    Having grown up in Harrison and playing varsity sports with Ray all I can say is I hope everything turns out well. Ray has always been a great person and a big help to our community. Not to mention I have been around some good athletes and its pretty amazing to see one of the top athletes you ever been around always give 110% regardless of the situation. This is the type of stuff most fans dont see.

  12. #12
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    I can only imagine how bad it has been for him the last 7+ years. To have it described this way, it must have been unbearable. :(

    I know there a lot of JI folks who don't dig his SNY gig, (I happen to think he is great) but he is a local guy who I believe truly loves the NYJ.

    All the best for a quick recovery!! :yes:

  13. #13
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    you hear this all too often, former players wracked with pain and disabilities who get nothing from the nfl after they retire.

    i really hope something can be done, but the reality is the same for them as well as people like us. once you leave your job your medical insurance ceases unless you buy individual coverage at astronomical rates. too bad if your hurt or sick. no coverage, no help.

    reminds me of the situation with coal miners. they work for years exposed to the coal dust and end up with that weird disease that I can't spell. no medical coverage and former employers dont pick up the medical expenses and they die from it.

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    [QUOTE=Bocajetfan68;3727915]Not in faver of guaranted contracts but players need and should have injury coverage. New CBA should cover all living players and no cut-off based on era. Baseball did a garve injustice to its former players in this regard as well as pensions. Just my opinion.[/QUOTE]

    It's a zero-sum game -- if all contracts were guaranteed, we would see much smaller contracts. It's going to be very hard to get lifetime insurance for these guys -- the rates will be ridiculous, and again, the money has to come from somewhere, so if there is insurance after your playing career, the current players will have to take a hit.

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    get better ray!! your great on sny!!!

  16. #16
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    [QUOTE=ryan10;3728376]get better ray!! your great on sny!!![/QUOTE]

    My favorite Ray Lucas moment was that time on SNY when he talked about being coached by Bill Parcells.

  17. #17
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    [QUOTE=Bocajetfan68;3727915]Not in faver of guaranted contracts but players need and should have injury coverage. New CBA should cover all living players and no cut-off based on era. Baseball did a garve injustice to its former players in this regard as well as pensions. Just my opinion.[/QUOTE]

    i understand your opinion- but the players should an pay for it themselves; the owners should make something available to the players at the players expense......its' a matter of priorities- very few NFL players save for their futures; the Al Toon's of the world are the execption to the rule...

    the word around the league is 75% of NFL players who are in the league four years or more are broke three years after the leave the league....on friday someone told me the ace up the owners sleeve for the pending lockout is the general concensus that 90% of the players will be out of money by September '11...

  18. #18
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    [QUOTE=Come Back to NY;3728563]i understand your opinion- but the players should an pay for it themselves; the owners should make something available to the players at the players expense......its' a matter of priorities- very few NFL players save for their futures; the Al Toon's of the world are the execption to the rule...

    the word around the league is 75% of NFL players who are in the league four years or more are broke three years after the leave the league....on friday someone told me the ace up the owners sleeve for the pending lockout is the general concensus that 90% of the players will be out of money by September '11...[/QUOTE]

    Maybe Obama will provide the NFLPA with a stimulus package. He is very pro-union!

  19. #19
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    [QUOTE=HDCentStOhio;3728750]Maybe Obama will provide the NFLPA with a stimulus package. He is very pro-union![/QUOTE]

    Good idea! :clapper:

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