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Concussion lawsuit plaintiffs an eye- opening cross section of NFL past

by | CBSSports.com National NFL Insider

Raymond Clayborn is one of at least four members of the Patriots' 1985 team in the lawsuits. (Getty Images)  
Raymond Clayborn is one of at least four members of the Patriots' 1985 team in the lawsuits. (Getty Images)  

By now you know former players -- lots of them -- are suing the NFL over the long-term effects of concussions. What you might not know is who -- other than names listed in various media reports -- these litigants really are.

So I would like to add what this story is missing -- context, back stories to go with names you may have heard while driving the kids to school. Or scanning a message board. Or quickly reading a story. There are more than 2,000 players suing the NFL claiming, mostly, that the league engaged in a concussion coverup.

Some of the names are incredible -- Super Bowl MVPs, Hall of Famers, Pro Bowl performers. Everyone from punters to linebackers to wide receivers.

They are smart men: lawyers, actors, businessmen, analysts. Some played five years, 10, more. In some cases, they made it to Canton. In others, they went back to Scranton. They all have two things in common:

 First, at one point, they dedicated their lives to the NFL.

 Second, they are now all suing the NFL.

It is an interesting mix of stars and non-stars, long- and short-timers. Some left football physically broken. Others have died since departing the sport, their estate suing the league. One rallied a city after a devastating hurricane. One starred in a sitcom. Another would be convicted of manslaughter in a shooting then have the conviction overturned by a judge. Others have gone on to careers a sports media personalities.

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A picture develops of men who spilled blood for the league but believe -- right or wrong -- that the same league misled them about just how dangerous the game truly was. The NFL denies this.

Some of the names will genuinely surprise you. Some may not. Some will bring back memories of championships and historic plays and Super Bowl moments.

We looked at the entire list of plaintiffs obtained from news reports and the site nflconcussionlitigation.com, which has expertly tracked every concussion lawsuit. We picked 50. Then the names were Googled, Wiki'd, put through LexisNexis and several football databases for more information.

Here are 50 of those men, with a little more about who they are, what they did for the game -- or both.

1. Art Monk, WR: The best receiver in Washington Redskins history. Monk was a physically imposing presence who delivered as much punishment as he took. Throughout his career, the quiet Monk shunned publicity. He made the Hall of Fame in 2008.

2. Mark Rypien, QB: A teammate of Monk's and one of several cases where teammates are suing the league. Rypien was NFL MVP in 1991 and won a Super Bowl with the Redskins.

3. Brad Culpepper, DL: A nine-year player in the NFL, mostly with the Buccaneers, and started 87 games. Was a union rep for two NFL teams and is now a prominent lawyer in Tampa, Fla.

4. Jim Arnold, P: Played 12 years, mostly in Detroit, in the 1980s and '90s. Was a two-time Pro Bowl selection. He was also an All-American at Vanderbilt. One of only a few punters suing the league. If you don't think a punter can get a concussion, watch this.

5. Tony Dorsett, RB: A mainstay for the Cowboys in the late 1970s and '80s and one of the most recognized players of all time. Dorsett is one of a handful of players in the Hall of Fame who are suing.

6. Eric Allen, CB: Was one of the best cover corners of his generation and currently an ESPN analyst.

7. Ottis Anderson, RB: A hard-charging runner who played mostly in St. Louis and then with the New York Giants. He became famous in Super Bowl XXV against Buffalo with one of the hardest runs ever in the title game. He was named Super Bowl MVP.

8. Keith Byars, RB: Played 13 seasons in the NFL for four different teams. He was a favorite of Eagles fans and played in a Super Bowl with the Patriots.

9. Alex Karras, DT: A Pro Bowl defender for the Detroit Lions in the 1950s and '60s. Was perhaps most known for acting. Played the character Mongo in Blazing Saddles and starred in the sitcom Webster. Made the 1960s All-Decade team.

10. Mark Duper, WR: Played in Miami with Dan Marino and Mark Clayton. Duper and Clayton were nicknamed "The Marks Brothers." He made three Pro Bowls.

11. Joe Horn, WR: Picked for the Pro Bowl four times while playing with the Saints and became one of the public faces for the franchise in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina.

12. Jim McMahon, QB: Key figure on the Chicago Bears' Super Bowl XX champions, maybe the best team in the Super Bowl era.

13. Rodney Hampton, RB: I covered Hampton when he was with the Giants and I always believed no player I was ever around was tougher. Once interviewed Hampton while he was in a hospital bed suffering from internal organ damage after he was smashed in the lower back with a helmet.

Bears legend Jim McMahon looks on at the 2011 NFC Pro Bowl practice in Hawaii. (US Presswire)  
Bears legend Jim McMahon looks on at the 2011 NFC Pro Bowl practice in Hawaii. (US Presswire)  
14. Raymond Clayborn, CB: Played 15 seasons, made three Pro Bowl teams and started in Super Bowl XX with the New England Patriots.

15. Harold Jackson, WR: Made five Pro Bowls over 17 seasons with five teams.

16. Steve Nelson, LB: One of the more interesting cases. Nelson played for the Patriots, and his No. 57 jersey was retired by the team. When he left the game in 1987, Nelson eventually worked for a computer company. Nelson played in the NFL for 14 years and made three Pro Bowls.

17. Chris Calloway, WR: He was drafted by the Steelers in 1990 but played his best football with the Giants. I remember him as a tough player with mediocre speed who did the most with limited talent.

18. George Visger, DL: Played in the NFL for just two seasons with San Francisco in the 1980s, but despite the relatively short career, as he wrote in an illuminating open letter to Roger Goodell and union head DeMaurice Smith, he still sustained "9 emergency VP Shunt brain surgeries, 3 knee surgeries (including a GoreTex ACL transplant that they stopped doing in 1991) and multiple grand mal seizures. I was hung out to dry by the NFL, was forced to sue for WORKERS COMP to get brain surgeries # 2 and # 3 paid for – just 4 months after we won Super Bowl XVI – and recently spent 3 months fighting with the 49ers Workers Comp to get approval for a $3,700 three-day evaluation at Dr. Amen's clinic, AFTER already being referred there by my primary care provider. My fight for benefits continues to this day, despite the fact I won my Workers Comp case against the 49ers in 1986!"

19. Horace Copeland, WR: Played mostly for Tampa Bay. He celebrated most of his touchdowns by doing a back flip.

20. Barry Foster, RB: Played in the 1990s primarily in a reserve role, but was All-Pro in '92. Retired early due to debilitating injuries.

21. Keith Henderson, RB: Played for three years in the NFL with two different teams. One of hundreds of players suing who had just a few years of NFL experience.

22. Leonard Marshall, DL: Played on two New York Giants Super Bowl teams. Marshall is best known for his devastating hit that virtually ended the 49ers portion of Joe Montana's career. Marshall drilled Montana in the fourth quarter of the 1990 NFC title game, a hit so hard that Montana bruised his sternum, cracked ribs and broke a hand.

23. Dave Pear, DL: Has been one of the most outspoken critics of the NFL on how the sport handles injured and retired players. Pear says he has had spine and hip surgeries and in 2007 told Yahoo! Sports that "the NFL destroys families. I wish I had never played."

24. James Pruitt, WR: Played six seasons for the Miami Dolphins and Indianapolis Colts in the late 1980s and early 1990s.

25. Johnny Rembert, LB: Played in Super Bowl XX while with the Patriots. Is an assistant athletic director at Edward Waters College.

26. Jamal Anderson, RB: One of the highest-profile Falcons players in team history and, like some other runners who have sued the NFL, took massive shots during his playing days.

27. Don Majkowski, QB: Spent most of his career in Green Bay, where he became one of the team's most prolific passers. A torn rotator cuff and, later, a torn ligament basically ended his Packers career, paving the way for Brett Favre.

28. Matt Joyce, OL: Played for a decade in the NFL for four different teams. He is also alleging in the suit that when team medical officials administered the painkiller Toradol, it dulled pain to the point that players sometimes didn't recognize concussion symptoms:

"The plaintiffs have described the situation as one of being in a pregame locker room with players lining up to receive injections of Toradol in a 'cattle call' with no warnings of any sort being given," the suit says, "no distinguishing between different medical conditions of the players, and regardless of whether the player had an injury of any kind."

29. Jerome Pathon, WR: Twice had 50 catches, in 1998 and 2000, with the Colts.

30. Dorsey Levens, RB: Another Packer. Twice rushed for more than 1,000 yards and made the Pro Bowl in 1997.

31. Ryan Stewart, DB: Another highly interesting case. Stewart played for four years in the late 1990s. Currently, he is one of the most popular radio personalities in the nation, co-hosting the 2 Live Stews show with his brother. Stewart is also a contributor to ESPN.

32. Reggie Barlow, WR: Led the league in punt returns in 1997. He later became a college coach.

33. Aaron Beasley, DB: Played most of his career in Jacksonville and later founded an energy drink company.

34. Lomas Brown, OL: One of the most congenial players the sport has ever seen. When something needed explaining to the media, Brown stood at his locker and did it. When a block was missed, he stood at his locker and took the heat, even if he wasn't the one who missed it. Brown was the most standup of standup guys.

35. Kyle Turley, OL: Another vocal critic of the NFL culture, spent most of his career with the Saints.

36. Reggie Rucker, WR: Played most of his 12 years in football with Cleveland. After his retirement became a large media presence in the area.

37. Conrad Dobler, OL: The NFL would point to this case and probably smirk. Dobler is one of the dirtiest players in the history of sports. He once kicked Merlin Olsen in the head, among many other transgressions. Longtime Sports Illustrated writer Paul Zimmerman: "Conrad Dobler was mean dirty. He tried to hurt people in a bad way. He made teams that he played on better. He played hurt, didn't complain, but he was a filthy, filthy player." Thus the man who inflicted so much carnage on others is suing, saying it was football that damaged him.

38. Joe Ferguson, QB: He is on the Bills' Wall of Fame.

39. Fred Smerlas, DL: Smerlas made five Pro Bowls.

40. Brian Blades, WR: Spent 11 years in Seattle. Was convicted of manslaughter in a shooting. The conviction was later overturned.

41. Stanley Morgan, WR: Made the Pro Bowl four times and is in the Patriots' Hall of Fame.

42. Roosevelt Potts, FB: He weighed more than 260 pounds and banged heads in short-yardage situations.

43. Dwight Stone, WR: Former Steeler and Panther is now a cop in Charlotte, N.C.

44. Seth Joyner, LB: Was part of a hard-hitting Eagles team beginning in the late 1980s.

45. Jeremiah Trotter, LB: Former Eagle and Redskin hasn't officially retired yet.

46. Billy Joe Dupree, TE: Never missed a game in 11 seasons with the Cowboys.

47. Jarrod Bunch, FB: One of the smartest players I ever covered. Left football to pursue an acting career.

48. Don Beebe, WR: Buffalo player that made one of the great plays in Super Bowl history, catching Leon Lett from behind and stripping the ball.

49. Sean Salisbury, QB: Longtime NFL quarterback who became famous for taking pictures of his penis with his cell phone.

50. Chidi Ahanotu, DE: Played for five different NFL teams.


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