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NFL and retired players state their cases in federal court

By By John P. Martin

The Philadelphia Inquirer (MCT)

Published: Tuesday, April 9 2013 11:28 p.m. MDT

Her courtroom was so stuffy — a combination of unseasonable temperatures and power problems in the building — that Brody urged the lawyers to shed their coats. Frederick did; Clement did not.

A judge for 30 years, she offered no obvious clues to her thinking — or her timetable for a decision — as she patiently questioned the lawyers and listened to 50 minutes of their replies.

When Clement mentioned the Health and Safety Committee, the league established to address current and former players issues, Brody called it “a committee that doesn’t really have any clout — it can say things, but it doesn’t have any controlling effect.”

She also noted, offhandedly, that her grandson plays football — she didn’t say where — but asked the players’ lawyer if his argument over the NFL’s breach of duty wouldn’t also extend to any school-age player “because, after all, (the league) committed the same offense to all the high school players.”

Frederick said it would.

“What the league has asserted for itself is the duty to be the superintendent of the game of football from Pop Warner — which is the junior league — all the way up,” he said.

Brody’s ruling is not expected for weeks or months, and is almost certain to be appealed. The NFL lawyers made clear that their motion to dismiss was just the first step in combating the lawsuits. If all or part of it fails, they are likely to contend that many of the suits fall outside the statute of limitations for civil claims, or to press players to pinpoint a specific injury or decision that harmed them.

The months or years that it could take is what makes the second front, the public-relations battle launched by the players and their lawyers, notable.

Easterling’s husband was a safety for the Atlanta Falcons in the 1970s. He was one of the first former players to have been diagnosed with chronic traumatic encephalopathy, a progressive brain damage linked to concussions.

With her and Turner at the news conference were other players and widows of players who are suing the league.

Among them were Lisa McHale, whose husband Tom, a former Eagles offensive lineman, was also found to suffer from CTE after he died of an accidental drug overdose in 2008, and Eleanor Perfetto, whose husband, former Pittsburgh Steelers guard Ralph Wenzel, died last year after two decades with dementia.

Another plaintiff, former Eagles linebacker Bill Bergey, said that during his playing days he was expected, or even told to, return to action after getting “dinged.”

“I had three concussions — that I remember — and I had three real, real bad ones,” said Bergey, 68, who lives in Chadds Ford. Too many of his former teammates or opponents have died, he said.

Bergey didn’t outline his own medical problems, but said he didn’t join the litigation for a payout.

“This game with me, it’s not a money game,” he said. “It’s a health game with me.”

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©2013 The Philadelphia Inquirer

Visit The Philadelphia Inquirer at www.philly.com

Distributed by MCT Information Services

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