Webster’s career lasted from 1974 to 1990, ending just before the advent of free agency and the massive increase in N.F.L. salaries it sparked. After Webster retired, his declining health, escalating medical bills, long slide into dementia and years of wandering the country took a toll on Garrett Webster, his three siblings and their mother, Pam.
She exhausted her savings long ago. She lives off credit cards, Social Security and an annuity. Unable to afford a home, she has spent the past five years staying with friends and family. Careful not to overstay her welcome, she traveled during one six-week stretch to Pittsburgh, the West Coast, Minnesota, Wisconsin and then back to Pittsburgh, where she stays with Garrett.
Through it all, she and her four children have continued a fight to receive a multimillion-dollar award from the N.F.L.’s concussion settlement with retired players.
As a part of the settlement, the N.F.L. agreed to make compensation payments that will stretch into the millions to retired players with severe cognitive and neurological problems. On paper, at least, the Websters should receive nearly $3 million based on his age at the time of the diagnosis, 50, and the number of years he played in the N.F.L., 17. The criteria are an attempt to gauge how long players were exposed to head trauma and how directly that exposure could be linked to health problems: Younger players are paid more on the presumption that football, not old age, caused their problems.
To the Websters’ dismay, they found out after the settlement agreement was announced that Iron Mike, as he was known in Pittsburgh, was…