NFL leaders, players pay visit

Thomas Warner
LRMC Public Affairs Office

***image1***After attending the recent World Bowl football game in Düsseldorf, National Football League commissioner Paul Tagliabue made one last visit to meet personnel and patients at Landstuhl Regional Medical Center.

Tagliabue, who announced his retirement after 16 years of leading America’s premier football league,  came with a handful of former and current players for another visit to a place with which he is familiar.

“The sacrifices we see by coming here tend to create a reverse effect for us,” Tagliabue said. “While it might brighten someone’s day or have a positive influence on peoples’ lives, it is us that gets the biggest reward when we see what some of these people are going through to further the cause of freedom.”

Tagliabue and his wife Chandler toured various wings of the hospital and the intensive care unit before spending an extended period with a large number of troops at the LRMC dining facility.

Also in Germany were NFL Players’ Association Executive Director Gene Upshaw and Community Relations Director Michael Haynes, plus current NFL players Michael Strahan of the New York Giants and Brian Dawkins of the Philadelphia Eagles.

“No injury I’ve ever had compares to what we’ve seen here with a lot of these patients,” Dawkins said. “Not only do these people deal with the pain that goes with their injury, but their lives are changed forever in a lot of cases.

“It makes you appreciate how good things are in free countries and like we’ve got it back in the United States.”

Players and people connected with the NFL have come at various times through the years to visit the hospital, which serves as a stabilizing point for most of the U.S. Soldiers wounded in Iraq.

“Pete Rozelle brought several people here when he was commissioner and there is a connection with the hospital and the NFL that has been established since the 1960s,” said USO Director Walt Murren. “It shows that these people care about things that are happening outside the world of sports and it also shows how athletes can affect people’s lives, through sports, but in a different way than simply playing in games.”