Lawyers for former pro-football players who say they are suffering debilitating brain diseases because the NFL concealed the risks of repetitive brain concussions filed a master complaint Thursday against the league in federal court here that would cover hundreds of former players.
"Let's face it and be honest. I feel like the NFL has over the past couple of decades, or at least until '08 or '09, kind of turned a blind eye to the seriousness of . . . concussive hits," said Kevin Turner, a former running back for the Philadelphia Eagles and New England Patriots diagnosed with amyotropic lateral sclerosis, known as Lou Gehrig's disease.
"I want this game to be around and be a great sport, a sport that my own boys will be able to play and enjoy all the benefits that football has," said Turner.
Turner and Mary Ann Easterling, widow of former Atlanta Falcon safety Ray Easterling, participated in a news teleconference this morning with lawyers who filed the proposed class-action.
Easterling, 62, despondent about his rapidly progressing dementia and the prospect of institutionalized care, committed suicide April 19.
"I firmly believe the FNL could have and should have done more to protect Ray," said Mary Ann Easterling, who broke down as she described her husband's post-career decline.
"Life with him in the first part of our marriage was wonderful," Easterling said. "He was the life of the party and always excited to get up and do his business. It was like a light went off, a switch was flipped. He no longer enjoyed being around his family or doing the things he once enjoyed."
Easterling's lawsuit was filed in federal court in Philadelphia last August on behalf of himself and his wife and joined by six other retired players including ex-Eagles quarterback Jim McMahon and offensive lineman Gerry Feehery, and four spouses.
The suit, the first of its kind, seeks NFL-funded medical monitoring for ex-players. The suit contends the NFL concealed the cumulative effect of multiple concussions from players while encouraging defenders like Easterling to use their helmets to stop opposing players.
Now that suit has been consolidated with more than 80 others filed nationwide for more than 2,000 former players in a proposed class-action before U.S. District Judge Anita B. Brody in Philadelphia.