Judge: NFL, players to settle concussion lawsuits

The Associated Press with Doug Russell and Jay Sorgi

Photo: Image by Milwaukee Journal Sentinel

Judge: NFL, players to settle concussion lawsuits

CREATED Aug. 29, 2013

PHILADELPHIA - The NFL and more than 4,500 former players including hundreds of Packers want to resolve concussion-related lawsuits with a $765 million settlement that would fund medical exams, concussion-related compensation and medical research, a federal judge said Thursday.

Some of the noteworthy Packers on the list included Hall of Famers Forrest Gregg and Dave Robinson, 1996 Super Bowl champions LeRoy Butler, Chris Jacke and Dorsey Levens and the quarterback before Brett Favre, Don Majkowski.

The plaintiffs also include at least 10 members of the Pro Football Hall of Fame, including former Dallas Cowboys running back Tony Dorsett. They also include Super Bowl-winning quarterback Jim McMahon and the family of Pro Bowl linebacker Junior Seau, who committed suicide last year.

Click here for full information on the lawsuit settlement.

Many former players with neurological conditions believe their problems stem from on-field concussions. The lawsuits accused the league of hiding known risks of concussions for decades to return players to games and protect its image.

The NFL has denied any wrongdoing and has insisted that safety has always been a top priority.

"We need to do something to take the head out of the game and make the sport better, not only for the players and the professionals but for college and high school players as well," said former Packers player George Koonce.
 
Koonce played for the Packers in the 1990's. He's now with Marquette University. He has seen the impact concussions have had on former players.
 
"I'm just so happy the NFL came to an agreement with those players to make things right," said Koonce.
 
For years players laughed off the effects of "getting your bell rung." The lawsuit brought to light the dangers of concussions with the pros and parents.
 
"It's a big buzz now in the sport and parents are concerned as they should be," said Brian Burghardt.
 
His family own sporting goods store sells lots of helmets to youth groups. He says there's no "concussion proof"  helmet but the technology has dramatically improved to reduce concussions.
 
There's different pods that are intended - when the impact comes in - to spread it over the bonnet that's inside so that the impact is spread evenly through the helmet," said Burghardt.

Senior U.S. District Judge Anita Brody in Philadelphia announced the proposed settlement Thursday after months of court-ordered mediation. She still must approve it at a later date.

The settlement likely means the NFL won't have to disclose internal files about what it knew, when, about concussion-linked brain problems. Lawyers had been eager to learn, for instance, about the workings of the league's Mild Traumatic Brain Injury Committee, which was led for more than a decade by a rheumatologist.

In court arguments in April, NFL lawyer Paul Clement asked Brody to dismiss the lawsuits and send them to arbitration under terms of the players' contract. He said that individual teams bear the chief responsibility for health and safety under the collective bargaining agreement, along with the players' union and the players themselves.

Players lawyer David Frederick accused the league of concealing studies linking concussions to neurological problems for decades.

Brody had initially planned to rule in July, but then delayed her ruling and ordered the two sides to meet to decide which plaintiffs, if any, had the right to sue. She also issued a gag order, so it has been unclear in recent weeks whether any progress was being made.

The lawyers were due to report back to her Tuesday, but Brody instead announced in court files Thursday that the case had settled.

In recent years, a string of former NFL players and other concussed athletes have been diagnosed after their deaths with chronic traumatic encephalopathy, or CTE. Those ex-players included Seau and lead plaintiff Ray Easterling, who filed the first suit in Philadelphia in August 2011 but later committed suicide.

About one-third of the league's 12,000 former players have joined the litigation since 2011. They include a few hundred "gap" players, who played during years when there was no labor contract in place, and were therefore considered likely to win the right to sue.

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