On its face, it's a fairly standard workers compensation case.
An employee, injured in the course of his job, is taken care of by employer. Employee retires and is certified as partially disabled as a result of his on-the-job injuries. Employee seeks benefits from his former employer via the state's review process, but the parties are unable to come to an agreement. Per the normal, everyday course of action, employee sues former employer in circuit court.
Most workers compensation claims, though, don't include phrases like "One such injury occurred during a Tennessee Titans' game with the Buffalo Bills on or about January 8, 2000. Plaintiff injured his cervical spine while making a tackle during a kickoff."
Former Titans punter Craig Hentrich is taking the team to court, seeking compensation for injuries sustained during the course of his career with the Tennessee Titans.
The initial back injury came during that 2000 playoff game against the Bills, famous for its dramatic kick return finale known to history as the Music City Miracle. Hentrich was injured making a tackle with 1:48 left in the game. The Titans had just kicked a field goal to go ahead 15-13 and on the ensuing kickoff, Hentrich tackled the returner at the Bills 39. The Bills would eventually kick a field goal to take a one-point lead, setting up the legendary "Home Run Throwback" from tight end Frank Wycheck to Kevin Dyson.
The lawsuit alleges Hentrich re-injured his neck and back multiple times over the next nine seasons and that the Titans met their obligations throughout his playing career; however, after his retirement, the injuries and the surgeries the punter underwent to rectify them resulted in doctors certifying Hentrich as partially disabled.
The team and Hentrich availed themselves of the state's benefit review process which "resulted in an impasse," leading to the circuit court filing.
Hentrich is seeking the statutory maximum payment for each injury, compensation for medical expenses, permanent disability benefits and for those benefits to be paid in a lump sum.
Hentrich's attorney, Gregg Ramos, said workers comp claims are common procedure for professional athletes and that he's handled dozens for Titans in the past. Usually, he said, team and player are able to resolve it without going to court, but "for whatever reason" it wasn't the case this time.
"This isn't about money, this about making sure these guys are being cared for in future years," he said. "The big thing is a claim entitles you to future benefits. Under the collective-bargaining agreement, the players are entitled to workers compensation under the laws where they play. It's real important because the former players are barely able to walk. … These guys may have serious injuries and they may need [medical care], and later on they really can't do that financially."