NFL faces another concussion lawsuit

| Saturday, March 31, 2012

Former Penn State running back Curt Warner joined about 70 other former NFL players in filing a lawsuit against the league Friday, claiming it didn't do enough to inform players about the dangers of head injuries or protect them from concussions in the past and isn't doing enough to take care of them today.

Warner, who ran for more than 6,000 yards after being taken by the Seattle Seahawks with the No. 3 overall pick in the 1983 draft, is among several hundred former players suing the league in federal court in Philadelphia. Lawyers involved say that number soon could reach more than 1,000.

What began last summer as a couple of cases with a handful of plaintiffs is growing week by week: Attorney Craig Mitnick, who has submitted several suits against the NFL, said he has been retained by other former players who have authorized him to put their names on future filings.

There is strength -- and symbolism -- in the continually rising numbers of former players taking the NFL to court over the issue of head injuries, they believe.

Among those in the new filing: Mark Rypien, a Super Bowl MVP and champion as a quarterback with the Washington Redskins; Golden Richards, who scored a touchdown in the Dallas Cowboys' 1978 Super Bowl victory over the Denver Broncos; A.J. Duhe, the 1977 AP NFL Defensive Rookie of the Year, probably best known for his three interceptions for the Miami Dolphins against the New York Jets in an AFC championship game; and Rypien's Redskins teammate Chip Lohmiller, the second-team All-Pro placekicker in 1991.

"If for some reason this doesn't go in favor of us, we've at least reached out and shown there's a group of concerned former athletes struggling with their own issues that wants to build awareness so that no one else has to go through what we're going through," Rypien said. "If that's the only thing we get out of this, that's a win. We can make some changes, so these guys (playing now) don't have to endure what some of us are enduring."

Rypien, 49, says his memory is failing and that he tape-records significant conversations with his girlfriend. "So we can go back ... when I vehemently say, 'I did not say that."' He suffers from depression, which Rypien finds particularly worrisome when he thinks about his cousin Rick, an NHL enforcer who faced that condition for years before committing suicide at age 27 in August.

"The common person will say, 'They knew what they were doing. They knew the risk that was involved.' And my answer is, 'Yes, so does every policeman and every fireman in the country. And they wouldn't face the same criticism that these ballplayers are facing.' ... They relied on the league as their medical experts, and the league withheld medical information that could have improved all of these guys' lives," Mitnick said.

NFL spokesman Greg Aiello declined to comment Friday, other than to note that the cases are in "their very early stages."

The lawsuits began in the wake of a growing body of scientific evidence connecting repeated blows to the head and long-term brain damage. Most of the cases are now linked and before a judge in Philadelphia; the first procedural hearing is about a month away.

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