Many ex-Redskins among those suing NFL over effects of brain injuries

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There are even 115 players named in multiple lawsuits (one complaint involving 55 of those duplicates was voluntarily withdrawn); four players are named in three suits each. One attorney involved in the litigation reported his clients, who already filed suit, were repeatedly solicited by other firms via email and phone calls.

Other complaints attempt to quantify the toll of concussions, from former Green Bay Packers defensive tackle Gilbert Brown alleging he suffered 50 to 100 undiagnosed concussions during his 10-year career to Tommy Barnhardt, the Redskins‘ punter in 2000, claiming concussions left him with “insomnia, suicidal thoughts, vision issues, and ears ringing.”

“Many of them cannot work, can’t hold a job,” said Thomas Girardi, whose firm, Girardi Keese, filed the first concussion-related lawsuit against the NFL in July 2011. “This isn’t something that’s going to go away.”

Added Fred Heather, another plaintiffs’ lawyer: “There’s a conflict with these guys. They don’t want to look publicly like they have their hat in their hand.”

Monk, the Hall of Fame wide receiver, suffers from speech difficulties, Charley Harraway, the running back, has early-onset Alzheimer’s and Alvin Garrett, who caught a touchdown pass in Super Bowl XVII, has dementia, according to their lawsuits.

Mark May, the ESPN college football analyst and Redskins offensive tackle who was a founding member of “The Hogs,” sued last week.

Almost a third of the plaintiffs played three or fewer seasons in the NFL. Most started their careers in the 1980s or 1990s. Twenty percent of the plaintiffs who played a regular-season game in the NFL are defensive backs, more than any other position. Even 31 punters and kickers are involved, including Chip Lohmiller, who kicked seven seasons for the Redskins.

Plaintiffs span seven decades, from 84-year-old Edgar Henke, whose 123-game career kicked off in 1949, to four players who retired after the 2011 season. One hundred ninety-eight plaintiffs never played a regular-season NFL game, spending time in NFL Europe, on practice squads or in training camp. Eleven are dead. That includes at least six wrongful death claims against the NFL.

“You can’t take and give these hits over this period of time,” said Benson, the neurologist. “It’s physically and mechanically impossible not to have brain damage.”

‘We have taken the right steps’

The NFL has called the litigation’s claims without merit and maintained that player safety has long been a priority.

In a motion filed last November to dismiss Easterling’s lawsuit, the NFL maintains the concussion litigation is “fundamentally a labor dispute” and subject to the collective bargaining agreement.

“We obviously believe the charges that we have not been responsible in this area are not factually correct,” NFL commissioner Roger Goodell told reporters last month during the league’s spring meeting in Atlanta. “We have taken the right steps. We have been leaders in this area. We have not waited for science.”

Starting in 2010, the NFL posted warnings about concussions, their symptoms and potential consequences in each locker room. Rules have changed, too, from preventing defenseless players from being hit above the shoulders in 2010 to kickoffs being moved up five yards to the 35-yard line last season. And at the NFL’s rookie symposium next week, players will be warned about long-term effects of traumatic brain injury.

“The NFL has long made player safety a priority and continues to do so,” a league spokesman said in a statement to The Washington Times. “Any allegation that the NFL sought to mislead players has no merit. It stands in contrast to the league’s many actions to better protect players and advance the science and medical understanding of the management and treatment of concussions.”

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