John Mackey's widow files wrongful death lawsuit against NFL

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The widow of Baltimore Colts legend and Pro Football Hall of Fame tight end John Mackey has filed a wrongful death lawsuit against the NFL.

Sylvia Mackey is part of a complaint filed last week in U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Louisiana and obtained by The Washington Times.


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After suffering from dementia, John Mackey died in 2011 at age 69. The years-long struggle against the disease led his wife to petition the NFL to start what came to be known as the 88 Plan, named after Mackey’s uniform number. Started in 2007, the plan offers financial assistance to former players dealing with dementia, Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s or Lou Gehrig’s disease.

Last year, researchers at Boston University announced that Mackey suffered from the degenerative brain disease chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE).

The lawsuit’s language is similar to the almost 300 others filed against the NFL since 2011.

“During his career in the NFL, Decedent experienced repeated traumatic head impacts,” the complaint said. “However, Decedent was never warned of the dangers of repetitive head impacts.”

Thirty-six Pro Football Hall of Famers or their estates have sued the NFL over head injuries, according to a count by The Times.

Over 10 seasons with the Colts and Chargers, Mackey caught 331 passes for 5,236 yards and, in 1992, became the second tight end inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame.

In August the NFL and attorneys representing over 4,600 former players announced a proposed $765 million settlement to the long-running concussion litigation. That hasn’t slowed the stream of lawsuits in the following weeks.

Sol Weiss, one of the lead attorneys for the plaintiffs, told The Times last week he expects the settlement paperwork to be filed in federal court later this month. The agreement that seeks to cover all former players — not just ones who sued — still must be approved by U.S. District Judge Anita Brody.

Former All-Pro returner Michael Lewis and deceased running back Odell Lawson are among those also included in Mackey’s lawsuit.

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