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Pain-racked McMahon still waiting for compensation

HOUSTON - Super Bowl memories are meant to last forever and former Chicago Bears quarterback Jim McMahon clings through the pain and haze to his as the ravages of a cranium-rattling National Football League career take a toll.

At the 2011 NFL championship game in Dallas, McMahon, the quirky and feisty quarterback who helped the Bears to victory in Super Bowl XX in 1986, talked to Reuters about his fading football memories and the damage done over punishing a career.

A bitter McMahon was back in Texas this week ahead of Sunday's Super Bowl showdown between the New England Patriots and Atlanta Falcons, still trying to bring attention to a concussion crisis that remains far from resolved despite an estimated $1 billion settlement between the league and players.

McMahon believes today's players are not doing enough to help their predecessors.

The concussion debate, once the league's hot-button issue, has quieted to the point where league commissioner Roger Goodell did not receive a single question about head injuries during his hour-long state of the league press conference on Wednesday.

The U.S. Supreme Court in December cleared the way for the NFL settlement of concussion-related lawsuits with thousands of retired players to take effect, rejecting a challenge brought by a small group of dissenters.

The settlement enables the NFL to avoid litigation that could have led to huge sums in damages and provided embarrassing details about how it has dealt with the dangers posed by head trauma in the violent sport.

But so far, McMahon says, he and other former players have received no benefits from a deal that has left them tangled in red tape and "jumping through hoops."

"I don't know if anyone has benefited yet. I haven't," McMahon told Reuters. "I was trying to discuss this with my lawyer a couple of weeks ago and now I have to go do something else, see another doctor and fill out more damn paperwork.

"They just keep this damn red tape rolling along."

In Dallas, McMahon was working with the Sport Legacy Institute (SLI), a non-profit organization whose mission is to help advance the study, treatment and prevention of head trauma in athletes.

This year McMahon was in Houston participating in the Cannabis in Professional Sports forum as part of an ongoing effort to push the league and NFL Players Association towards a new policy on marijuana.

McMahon, who travels to New York every couple of months to have fluid drained from his neck and head, said he has replaced opioid painkillers and other medications for marijuana to help deal with concussion related symptoms.

"I got all the pills and the stuff they had us on for years and this is much better," said McMahon, who lives in Arizona where medical marijuana is legally available to him.

McMahon, who won a second Super Bowl ring as Brett Favre's backup with the Packers in 1997, remains hopeful that he and his lawyers will eventually navigate their way through settlement red tape and recover some of the thousands of dollars he has spent on concussion related problems.

Even though the lawsuit has been settled, McMahon, who has been informed he suffered a broken neck at some time during his career and was not told about it, believes more can be done, particularly by the players.

"I went through two strikes as a player so these guys can make all the money they are making now but they won't take care of the guys who did all that," he said.

"It's all about what is happening now for them."