NFL, retirees eye unified concussion suit

PHILADELPHIA -- The National Football League hopes to consolidate in Philadelphia a string of lawsuits filed across the country by former players who say they've suffered concussion-related brain injuries.

Seven former players filed the first such lawsuit last summer in Philadelphia, where a similar lawsuit filed Monday seeks more than $5 million for more than 100 ex-players. Other lawsuits are pending or expected in California, Florida, New York and elsewhere, said lawyer Sol Weiss, who's involved in the first lawsuit.

A hearing is set for Jan. 26 in Miami for the parties to ask a federal judicial panel to consolidate the cases before a U.S. District Court judge in Philadelphia. The NFL requested the move to avoid trying related litigation in several districts, according to its motion.

The lawsuit filed Monday seeks damages for traumatic brain injuries and neurodegenerative disorders on behalf of 106 former players, including former Minnesota Vikings offensive lineman Brent Boyd and three Hall of Famers: Detroit Lions cornerback Lem Barney, Buffalo Bills offensive lineman Joe DeLamielleure and Vikings defensive back Paul Krause.

Boyd, his lawyers said, is the only living player to be diagnosed with chronic traumatic encephalopathy, a degenerative disease that is found in people who've had multiple head injuries and whose symptoms can include memory loss. He has started an organization called Dignity After Football to help former players who are disabled or lack league pensions.

Attorney Richard Lewis, one of those who filed the lawsuit, said in a statement that as the NFL prepares for the Super Bowl on Feb. 5, "it has forgotten about the legacy of its former players, many of whom built the league and are now suffering from the devastating consequences of on-field head injuries."

The league pledges to vigorously fight accusations it failed to protect players, a spokesman said.

"The NFL has long made player safety a priority and continues to take steps to protect players and to advance the science and medical understanding of the management and treatment of concussions," spokesman Brian McCarthy said Monday. "The NFL has never misled players with respect to the risks associated with playing football. Any suggestion to the contrary has no merit."

Weiss, the Philadelphia attorney, represents two-time Super Bowl champion Jim McMahon and six others who filed the first potential class action lawsuit on the issue in August. They accuse the NFL of trying to conceal any links between football and brain injuries.

The lawsuit accuses the NFL of negligence and intentional misconduct in its response to the headaches, dizziness and dementia that former players have reported. It seeks medical monitoring along with funds to pay for the care of injured players.

Some analysts have questioned how players' lawyers can prove their clients were injured during their NFL days and not earlier, during youth or college football. But Weiss said he doesn't expect that to be a big hurdle at trial.

"There is a lot of footage taken by NFL Films over the years," Weiss said Monday. "I don't see it as a problem."