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Ex-players sue NFL alleging illegal painkiller use

By Will Brinson | NFL Writer

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A group of retired NFL players sued the NFL on Tuesday, claiming the league illegally supplied them with painkillers and narcotics designed to numb injuries.

Those drugs, the players allege, caused medical issues later in their lives.

The lawsuit, which seeks class-action status, was obtained by the Associated Press and names eight different players as plaintiffs, including three members of the 1985 Chicago Bears.

Hall of Fame defensive end Richard Dent, quarterback Jim McMahon and offensive lineman Keith Van Horne were the Bears named in the lawsuit, which was filed Tuesday in U.S. District Court in San Francisco.

McMahon in particular alleges he suffered a broken neck and broken ankle but was given painkillers to play through the injuries, which he says team doctors never told him about. McMahon also alleges he became addicted to painkillers, at one point taking more than 100 Percocet per month, even during the off-season.

Six of the plaintiffs in the lawsuit, per the AP, were also plaintiffs in the recently settled concussion lawsuit against the NFL.

"The NFL knew of the debilitating effects of these drugs on all of its players and callously ignored the players' long-term health in its obsession to return them to play," Steven Silverman, attorney for the players, said.

NFL spokesperson Brian McCarthy told the AP from the owners meetings in Atlanta the league has "not seen the lawsuit and our attorneys have not had an opportunity to review it."

Van Horne alleges he played an entire season on a broken leg but wasn't told about the injury for five years, "during which time he was fed a constant diet of pills to deal with the pain."

Another plaintiff, J.D. Hill, who played seven years of football in the 1970s, offered perhaps the most inflammatory comment of all, issued through a statement.

"I was provided uppers, downers, painkillers, you name it while in the NFL," Hill said. "I became addicted and turned to the streets after my career and was homeless. Never took a drug in my life, and I became a junkie in the NFL."

As mentioned, the lawsuit is seeking class-action status. It's seeking said status for any players who "received narcotic painkillers, anti-inflammatories, local anesthetics, sleeping aids or other drugs without prescription, independent diagnosis or warnings about side effects or the dangers of mixing with other drugs," according to the AP.

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