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Concussion-related lawsuit mentions Steelers' Harrison

| Wednesday, July 25, 2012, 8:14 p.m.
Chaz Palla | Trib Total Media
James Harrison had minor knee surgery Wednesday, Aug. 15, 2012. Harrison hasn’t been on the field since the second day of OTAs on May 23, 2012, while nursing a sore knee.

A concussion-related lawsuit filed against the NFL by 73 former players, including former Raiders star Ken “The Snake” Stabler, questions why Steelers linebacker James Harrison is allowed to keep playing despite repeat offenses that endanger fellow players.

The lawsuit, filed Monday in Philadelphia, is one in a series of such legal actions nationally in which more than 2,700 former players are seeking relief from what they contend is the league's slowness in dealing with the dangers of concussions and brain trauma.

Mentioned prominently are a number of in-game incidents from 2009 on, after a Boston University study revealed that multiple former NFL players died prematurely after developing boxer-like brain damage.

The players argue in the suit that “recidivist violators” such as Harrison, a former NFL Defensive Player of the Year and one of the league's most punishing hitters, shouldn't be allowed to keep playing. In legal terms, a recidivist is a repeat offender. The court filing mentions five illegal hits by Harrison on quarterbacks over three seasons.

Hits by Harrison resulted in multiple players sustaining concussions, including Browns quarterback Colt McCoy last season and Browns receiver Mohamed Massaquoi in 2010. Harrison drew a one-game suspension for the helmet-to-helmet McCoy hit and a $75,000 fine and no suspension for the Massaquoi hit.

Asked about the unusual request by former players to effectively ban a current player, Steelers coach Mike Tomlin told the Tribune-Review: “I'll leave that (the lawsuit) up to the lawyers. That's for the lawyers. We're here for football.”

Harrison reported to training camp Wednesday but did not talk to reporters.

“Those guys (former players) aren't around and they don't know the type of player that he is,” said quarterback Charlie Batch, the vice president of the NFL Players Association. “We know he's not that way. The fight is not against somebody like a current player; the fight ultimately comes down to the NFL. You're trying to make the game safer, and they're pushing for 18 games. If concussions are a point of emphasis, these questions don't need to be answered by the players. This needs to be answered by Roger (Goodell, the NFL commissioner) and the people in charge of the NFL. … The fight is not players against players.”

The lawsuit, first reported by ProFootballTalk.com, requests — among other things — a court-ordered monitoring of injuries resulting from hits to the head and punitive damages.

Alan Robinson is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at arobinson@tribweb.com.

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