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Players have differing motives for suing their former employers, and the 20 or so lawsuits against the NFL seek varying remedies, although lawyers are reluctant to discuss specific monetary damages. At least one suit, for example, asked that the NFL and Riddell fund a medical monitoring program that would test players over the years to see whether they wind up with problems that stem from concussions.

“I just want to make sure there is some recognition given to the fact that, 10 years from now, if I come down with something … that I have some kind of recourse,” says Cedric Brown, a safety for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers from 1976-84. “I don’t want to end up, 10 years from now, being a vegetable, and you’ve got nowhere to go.”

Asked what advice he’d give current players, Brown says: “First thing is, wear every pad. … And pay attention to your body. When you get to be 50 or 60, those little injuries you have now, guess what? They’re coming back.”

Dorsett acknowledges he’s not familiar with details of the lawsuit that includes him among the plaintiffs. He was approached about joining other former players, and he agreed, figuring his name would call attention to the issues of mistreatment he sees as being at the heart of the case.

“I’ll stand up on a mountaintop,” Dorsett says, “and tell the world it’s not right.”

Ask Dorsett what outcome he hopes for, and he speaks about money and principles.

“The owners need to own up to it, own up to what the game does to human lives. There’s a zillion football players in the same situation with their brains, their backs, their knees. Come on. They just need to own up to it, and do something about it. They’ve got money they can put in funds to take care of guys when they need to help,” Dorsett says. “We need health insurance for life. Paid by the NFL. No question in my mind, we definitely need that.”

According to the NFL Players Association, full lifetime medical insurance was not sought by current and former union leadership because such a plan would cost an estimated $50 million a year and the current U.S. health care laws should cover most players with pre-existing conditions.

“Until the public realizes what’s going on and how many players _ there’s guys in the Hall of Fame; in the Hall of Fame! _ that were making $300, $400, $500 a month with no health insurance. Again, what is that? That is sad. That is sad,” says Dennis Harrah, a Los Angeles Rams offensive lineman from 1975-87 and an All-Pro in 1986. “They’re just fallen heroes. You take care of fallen heroes. Somehow, some way.”

For now, the lawsuits are still in the initial, procedural stages. On Tuesday, at least four, including one in which former Chicago Bears Super Bowl-winning quarterback Jim McMahon is a plaintiff, were consolidated in a Philadelphia court.

Harrah, like most of the former players interviewed by the AP, isn’t all that optimistic about a quick resolution. “They’re just waiting until we die,” he says of the NFL. “They’re just waiting for us old guys until we pass _ to quit complaining, and we die.”

That same sense of resentment and despair permeates Dorsett’s words as he raises his voice and shakes his head.

“They use you up. No matter what the circumstances are, it’s all about winning games, football games, regardless. And they don’t care, because they figure, you know, `We got, you know, replacement factories,’ which are colleges. And there’s going to be somebody else to eventually come along and fill that void,” he says. “So they just put you out there, and feed you to the wolves. And if you make it through, fine. If you don’t, that’s fine.

“Management, ownership, as far as injuries are concerned, I think in some regards they wish they could just look the other way.”


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