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Thursday, December 22, 2011
Ex-players sue NFL over concussions

ESPN.com news services

ATLANTA -- Jamal Lewis, Dorsey Levens and two other former NFL players say in a federal lawsuit that brain injuries have left them struggling with medical problems years after their playing days ended.

LAST NAME Any allegation that the NFL intentionally sought to mislead players has no merit. It stands in contrast to the league's actions to better protect players and advance the science and medical understanding of the management and treatment of concussions.

-- NFL's response to lawsuit

Lewis and Levens, along with Fulton Kuykendall and Ryan Stewart, filed the lawsuit against the National Football League and FNL Properties LLC this week in U.S. District Court in Atlanta.

Lewis, 32, rushed for 10,607 yards in nine seasons (2000-09) with the Baltimore Ravens and Cleveland Browns. His 2,066 yards rushing in 2003 rank behind only Eric Dickerson's 2,105 in 1984 all-time among single-season rushing totals.

Levens, 41, rushed for 4,955 yards in 11 seasons (1994-2004) with the Green Bay Packers, New York Giants and Philadelphia Eagles.

Kuykendall, 58, played 11 NFL seasons (1975-85) as a linebacker for the Atlanta Falcons and San Francisco 49ers.

The 38-year-old Stewart, who co-hosts the "2 Live Stews" radio show in Atlanta with his brother Doug, is a regular contributor on the "ESPN First Take" debate desk. He played five seasons (1996-2000) as a defensive back for the Detroit Lions.

All four ex-players live in the Atlanta area.

The players maintain the NFL knew as early as the 1920s of the potential for concussions to harm its players. The men claim a range of medical problems stemming from their playing days, including memory loss, headaches and sleeplessness. They are seeking a jury trial and unspecified damages.

"The NFL has done everything in its power to hide the issue and mislead players concerning the risks associated with concussions," the players argue in the lawsuit.

The NFL responded that it has long made player safety a priority and continues to do so.

"Any allegation that the NFL intentionally sought to mislead players has no merit," the league said in a statement to The Associated Press on Thursday. "It stands in contrast to the league's actions to better protect players and advance the science and medical understanding of the management and treatment of concussions."

The court documents say the league concealed the dangers from coaches, trainers, players and the public until June 2010, when it publicly acknowledged the health threats and warned players and teams.

"While athletes in other professional sports who had suffered concussions were being effectively 'shut down' for long periods of time or full seasons, NFL protocol was to return players who had suffered concussions to the very game in which the injury occurred," the lawsuit states.

The lawsuit is the latest to be filed against the NFL this year by former players over concussions.

Earlier this month, 12 former football players, including former receiver Joe Horn, filed a lawsuit against the NFL about its concussion policies, saying there was widespread pregame use of an anti-inflammatory drug that could put someone with a head injury at increased risk.

In August, two separate lawsuits were filed against the league for its concussion-related policies:

A group of seven players, including former quarterback Jim McMahon, accused the league of training players to hit with their heads, failing to properly treat them for concussions and trying to conceal for decades any links between football and brain injuries.

Later in the month, another group of 18 former NFL players sued the league and helmet makers over head injuries suffered during their careers.

In July, 74 former players sued the NFL, claiming the league intentionally withheld knowledge of the damaging effects of concussions for 90 years.

Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.