'They use you up': Hall of Famer Dorsett suing NFL

By Nancy Armour

Associated Press

Published: Thursday, Feb. 2 2012 12:00 a.m. MST

That attitude extended beyond head injuries, according to the plaintiffs the AP interviewed.

"The game of football and the money that was out there — they wanted the best players in the games, no matter what. If he was 80 percent well or 75 percent, they believed that he, the starter, was better than the second guy behind him, and they'd rather have a less-percentage guy. They didn't protect us at all," Lippett says. "I took shots in my foot, in my shoulders, in my ribs. They had to know of the ramifications of going back out there with different injuries. The money aspect of it just forced them to not pay attention."

Mara, the Giants' owner, says he can't speak for other teams, but insists his medical staff takes "any kind of injury seriously."

"They don't let players go back on the field unless they feel they can do so without risk, particularly with head injuries," says Mara, whose family founded the Giants in 1925. "Our trainer, Ronnie Barnes, has been with us forever. You ask any of our players, or former players, whether he put their interests first or the team's interests first, and I think you'd find a pretty strong consensus that he always put the players' interests first. I can't speak to other organizations."

Giants long snapper Zak DeOssie's father, Steve, also played for New York, as well as New England, during his 1984-95 career. The elder DeOssie was approached about signing on as a plaintiff against the NFL but hasn't because, he says, "I'm not 100 percent sure if my concussions have affected me."

"You accept the responsibility and you accept the idea that you're in a dangerous profession, but you also expect certain levels of care and professionalism on the other side. And I think it's a lot better now than it ever was before," says Steve DeOssie. "Whether it's through public pressure, or whether it's their own desire, they've gone a long way to make it right, which is a good thing."

Players have differing motives for suing their former employers, and the 20 or so lawsuits against the NFL seek varying remedies, although lawyers are reluctant to discuss specific monetary damages. At least one suit, for example, asked that the NFL and Riddell fund a medical monitoring program that would test players over the years to see whether they wind up with problems that stem from concussions.

"I just want to make sure there is some recognition given to the fact that, 10 years from now, if I come down with something ... that I have some kind of recourse," says Cedric Brown, a safety for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers from 1976-84. "I don't want to end up, 10 years from now, being a vegetable, and you've got nowhere to go."

Asked what advice he'd give current players, Brown says: "First thing is, wear every pad. ... And pay attention to your body. When you get to be 50 or 60, those little injuries you have now, guess what? They're coming back."

Dorsett acknowledges he's not familiar with details of the lawsuit that includes him among the plaintiffs. He was approached about joining other former players, and he agreed, figuring his name would call attention to the issues of mistreatment he sees as being at the heart of the case.

"I'll stand up on a mountaintop," Dorsett says, "and tell the world it's not right."

Ask Dorsett what outcome he hopes for, and he speaks about money and principles.

"The owners need to own up to it, own up to what the game does to human lives. There's a zillion football players in the same situation with their brains, their backs, their knees. Come on. They just need to own up to it, and do something about it. They've got money they can put in funds to take care of guys when they need to help," Dorsett says. "We need health insurance for life. Paid by the NFL. No question in my mind, we definitely need that."

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