-- The NFL will replace longtime and controversial medical adviser Elliot Pellman with a new full-time chief medical officer, commissioner Roger Goodell wrote Wednesday in a letter to club executives.
Pellman will retire, Goodell wrote, but the commissioner made the decision that prompted Pellman's retirement, sources told ESPN's Adam Schefter. Goodell understands that the NFL must demonstrate strong leadership on health and safety and that its players and fans need to trust in the league, the sources said.
Pellman is retiring after a 30-year career with the NFL. A rheumatologist, Pellman had served as New York Jets team doctor and was also chairman of the league's powerful research arm.
Pellman has been a central figure in the NFL's attempts to deal with rising concerns about concussions. He led the Mild Traumatic Brain Injury Committee, and his name appeared 26 times in a subsequent lawsuit that contended the NFL concealed a link between football and brain damage.
The new chief medical officer's role, Goodell wrote, will be to coordinate health-related efforts with team medical staffs, the NFLPA and medical committees. The new hire will ensure that teams have access to updated information and that NFL research funds are spent "in an effective and targeted way," according to Goodell.
In May, a congressional report concluded that the NFL had pressured the National Institutes of Health to strip the $16 million project from a prominent Boston University researcher. It also determined the NFL tried to redirect the money to members of the league's committee on brain injuries. The study was to have been funded out of a $30 million "unrestricted gift" the NFL gave the NIH in 2012.
A search for the NFL's new full-time chief medical officer role will begin this week and will be conducted by a panel of health and medical experts led by Dr. Betsy Nabel, the league's chief health and medical adviser.
Others on the search panel will include Dr. Rob Heyer, president of the NFL Physicians Society and team internist for the Carolina Panthers; Ronnie Barnes, senior vice president and head trainer for the New York Giants; Dr. Robert Cantu of Boston University; and Peter Foss, of G.E. Healthcare. The panel will work closely with the league's Jeff Miller.
Steve Fainaru and Mark Fainaru-Wada and The Associated Press contributed to this report.