(NaturalNews) Playing in the National Football League (NFL) is an honor that is bestowed on the elite few who are good enough to compete for a roster slot, but it is also one of the most physically challenging jobs you could have. Every player going into the league knows that.
Which is why it's more than just a little confusing that a former starting quarterback would be suing the league over "repeated traumatic injuries to his head" when hard hits and other physical violence are distinct characteristics of the game.
Yet, former Washington Redskins QB Mark Rypien seems to have forgotten that little detail. Rypien, who played in the league 11 years and spent years before his NFL days playing the game throughout high school and college, is the lead plaintiff in a lawsuit against the league involving 126 former players, all of whom allege the NFL somehow knew what the medical community might not yet have known - that repeated traumatic brain injuries were risky - and just decided not to tell anyone.
Too tough of a sport?
"It's scary the extent to which these guys have been hurt," Gene Locks, the plaintiffs' lead attorney, told the Washington Times. "When we played football, broken bones, busted noses, tears of tissue were kind of expected. Nobody said you'd get a head injury. These injuries are insidious, they are latent, degenerative, and it gets worse and worse as you get older in certain players."
The suit alleges that Rypien, who also played for the Cleveland Browns, Indianapolis Colts, Philadelphia Eagles and St. Louis Rams, "suffers from various neurological conditions and symptoms related to the multiple head traumas." The same language was used to describe each of the other 125 players.
The suit comes as the league continues to deal with a so-called bounty program managed by the New Orleans Saints. According to reports, former Saints Defensive Coordinator (DC) Gregg Williams, who signed on to become the DC for the Rams this offseason, managed the program, which allegedly paid players thousands of dollars to lay game-ending hits on opposing players.
The bounty program, which was uncovered by NFL investigators during the 2009-2010 timeframe, led league commissioner Roger Goodell to suspend Williams indefinitely in late March. Goodell also suspended Saints head coach Sean Payton for the 2012 season, General Manager Mickey Loomis was given an eight-game suspension and assistant coach Joe Vitt will miss six games. Everyone except Williams is appealing Goodell's rulings to the league.
Suing for safety?
Another aspect giving some weight to the lawsuits: Goodell and the league have been ultra-focused on making it safer, implementing new stricter rules governing hits on quarterbacks and defenseless wide receivers in recent years, for example.
Rypien, 49, now lives in Spokane, Wash. His suit is only the latest in a string of litigation filed against the NFL, one of the richest, most successful professional sports leagues in history, with annual revenues in excess of $9 billion. Like Rypien's suit, most of the others deal with the incident of head injuries among players.
One Web site, NFLConcussionLitigation.com, tracks such lawsuits. As of this writing, the Locks law firm had filed its 54th and 55th case, boasting that now some 1,069 players were involved in litigation against the league.
"The first is a mass tort, exactly like the other lawsuits filed by Lock's in the Eastern District of Pennsylvania, John "Golden" Richards, et al v. NFL. The other lawsuit, also filed in the E.D. of Penn, names longtime Detroit Lions Quarterback, Greg Landry and his wife as plaintiffs, Landry et al v. NFL," the site said. The suits include five involving wrongful death.
Should they play flag football?
In 1995, Rypien told USA Today he suffered two concussions during his career. "I thought that was two too many," he said then.
His suit covers eight counts including, like many of the other lawsuits, conspiracy to defraud, fraud and negligence.
As the suits make their way through the courts, the fans - who pay good money to watch the toughest men play the roughest sport - stand to lose the most. For one, the league will have to spend revenue (better used put back into the game) to defend itself against an onslaught of courtroom abuse very similar to the physical abuse these very players originally signed up for, thrived off of, and were paid to endure. It sure seems like a lop-sided deal.
And for all you NFL fans, here's a really scary thought: What happens to the game if any of these suits are successful?
Maybe it'll turn into something more like flag football.