Former star quarterback Craig Morton sued the NFL in US District Court in northern California on Tuesday, accusing the league of deliberately hiding information about the dangerous effects of head hits and concussions. The allegations are similar to those made by the more than 4,000 former players whose cases are still being completed after the NFL agreed in August to pay $765 million to retirees with debilitating injuries while admitting no fault. Morton's 84-page filing was born out of frustration with the proposed settlement and is a sign that some players may opt out of the settlement and continue pursuing their cases.
Lawyers for Morton, who started two Super Bowls and played for the Dallas Cowboys, the New York Giants and the Denver Broncos, accused the NFL of agreeing to a settlement just before the season began as a way to deflect negative attention from the league.
"Their concerns are different from the PR concerns of the league," Jon King, one of Morton's lawyers, said of the former players. "
He said several hundred other players were considering joining Morton's suit. Brian McCarthy, a spokesman for the league, declined to comment. Filing another suit before a settlement has been reached has been tried before. In the publicity rights case against the NFL and NFL Films, Fred Dryer, Curley Culp and other retired players unhappy with the proposed settlement sued the league and NFL Films before the deal was completed. The former players in that case sought compensation for the use of their likenesses in highlight films and memorabilia.
That case is pending. Bob Stein, a former NFL player and lawyer involved in that case, is also representing Morton. It is unclear whether the legal strategy will work, but it suggests that hundreds of retired players may opt out of the concussion-related settlement, which is being heard in US District Court in Philadelphia. The judge in that case would have to decide whether the retired players' dissatisfaction was strong enough for her to force the two sides back to the table.
Other former players have expressed unhappiness with the proposed settlement. Some argue that league officials should have to answer key questions about what they knew about concussions and when, while others say they feel that the NFL should pay more to help retirees.
New York Times Service