Former NFL players sue league over concussions

by: Erin Coleman Updated:

Godfrey is just one of about 2,700 former players now suing the NFL over concussions. There are more than 90 lawsuits in all.

ATLANTA - Atlanta is playing a major role in the countless lawsuits filed against the NFL over concussions.

Dozens of the former players who are suing either played in Atlanta, or now call metro Atlanta home.

One of those former players is former University of Georgia Bulldog Randall Godfrey.

The linebacker also spent 12 years in the NFL.

"I go to a store, sometimes just shopping, I have to take a picture of where I parked, just to remember," Godfrey said. "My short-term memory is not where it needs to be."

Godfrey thought he knew what to expect when he retired from football.

"I'm going to deal with the arthritis, I'm going to have the knee surgeries, I may have a hip replacement, but when it comes to brain damage, I never thought about it," Godfrey said.

He is just one of about 2,700 former players now suing the NFL over concussions. There are more than 90 lawsuits in all.

Several of them were filed in Atlanta.

Among those suing are more than 200 former Atlanta Falcons, several UGA and Georgia Tech stars, and hundreds of players who now call metro Atlanta home.

Georgia State University head football coach Bill Curry believes he had his share of concussions while playing center for the Green Bay Packers and the Indianapolis Colts. He told Channel 2's Erin Coleman about one of those times.

"So twice, the Packer huddle broke and ran to the ball and the quarterback barked out signals, and 21 guys took off and did the play, and one guy is still over the ball," Curry said. "I simply didn't snap the ball. So the quarterback, Bart Starr said, 'What's wrong with you?' I said, 'Nothing, call the play again.' He called the play again, I did it again."

Curry is not among the players suing the NFL because he said his health is great, but he gets emotional when he talks about some of his former teammates.

"I've got good friends who didn't make it," Curry said. "(They're) not living. And we know it's because of those blows to the head."

In the lawsuits, the players claim the NFL knew for decades about the dangers of concussions and shot down research that showed repeated concussions could cause brain damage like that seen in Alzheimer's patients.

NFL leaders said the players' complaints are inaccurate.

Some critics said the players knew they were playing a violent sport, but Georgia State professor Jack Williams said the law may not look at it that way.

"The law looks at whether you voluntarily assumed a known risk," Williams said. "It's not enough to know that you might get hurt. The law might require that for there to be voluntarily consent, you know the magnitude and the extent of harm that could be caused."

Williams said if the NFL establishes a trust to help injured players, or if the court awards judgments, the outcome could be costly for fans.

"The quickest way in which for the NFL and its teams to generate revenue is going to be through the fans," Williams said. "So the fans are going to be asked to pay more."

Other fans are concerned the lawsuits could lead to sweeping new rules that could change the impact and intensity of football forever.

Former players said that worries them too, but not at the expense of someone's health.

"You see the NFL pushing the kickoff a little forward just to avoid that contact on specials teams," Godfrey said. "But in the long run, when your Dad comes out of the game healthy and can come out with a sound mind and live a healthy life, that's the purpose."

"Do the fans love the big hits, of course they do," said Curry. "What we have to decide is what the balance is between what is rational behavior and salvaging somebody's future."

Attorneys have filed a motion that would consolidate all the concussion lawsuits against the NFL. The McGlamry Law Firm in Atlanta is involved in that action.

NFL officials have until Aug. 9 to ask the court to dismiss the consolidated cases.

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