Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Ex-NFLers surprised by $765-M settlement

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TONY DORSETT hopes a proposed $765-million settlement with the NFL can make a difference in the lives of the thousands of former players who are suffering from concussion-related brain injuries.

Players like Dorsett, a Hall of Fame running back.

"There's definitely a dire need for help for these guys -- for us guys," Dorsett told The Associated Press on Thursday.

The settlement would provide immediate compensation for players and their families, pay for medical exams and treatment, and underwrite research the plaintiffs hope will protect future generations from the devastating effects of repeated blows to the head. The settlement still has to be approved by Senior U.S. District Judge Anita Brody in Philadelphia, something lead plaintiffs' lawyer Christopher Seeger said he expects to happen in the next 60 to 90 days.

"I don't know all the details so I really can't speak to the specifics, but I'm glad to see there's been some movement and some reaction to all this," said Dorsett, the most accomplished and best-known plaintiff in the flurry of lawsuits after starring for the Dallas Cowboys and winning the 1976 Heisman Trophy at Pittsburgh.

"Wow," Dorsett said, pausing. "I'm glad to see this has come to somewhat of an end. But the research obviously is going to be important, the safety of the players is going to be extremely important."

Dorsett and Super Bowl-winning quarterback Jim McMahon were among the more than 4,500 former athletes -- some suffering from dementia, depression or Alzheimer's -- who have sued the NFL since the first case was filed in Philadelphia in 2011. They accused the league of concealing the long-term dangers of concussions and rushing injured players back onto the field, while glorifying and profiting from the kind of bone-jarring hits that make for spectacular highlight-reel footage.

"I'm shocked that it is settled. I'm used to the NFL taking a hard-line approach as they have throughout the years with strikes and everything else," said former offensive tackle Lomas Brown, a seven-time Pro Bowler with Detroit, Arizona, Cleveland, the New York Giants and Tampa Bay.

The NFL has insisted safety has always been a top priority, and in settling the thousands of cases it admitted no wrongdoing. While a trial could have forced the NFL to disclose what it knew, and when, about concussion-linked brain problems, Seeger said the plaintiffs' greater concern was a fair settlement -- and one that would be paid immediately.

Had the lawsuits gone to trial, it could have been years before the players saw any money. Years the players might not have.

-- The Associated Press

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition August 30, 2013 C2

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