Tim Couch, Courtney Brown join concussion lawsuits

The NFL hasn’t been very lenient with regard to the New Orleans Saints and the bounty allegations. Most assume that it has everything to do with former players health concerns, namely concussions. The lawsuits are forming and now include a couple of guys who could still be members of the Cleveland Browns had they not washed out of the league due to injuries.

The newest claim includes two former No. 1 overall picks of the Cleveland Browns: Tim Couch (pictured) and Courtney Brown.

Other plaintiffs include recognizable names like Fred Taylor, Kevin Bentley, Ladell Betts, Gilbert Brown, Ken Dilger, Olandis Gary, Nick Greisen, Willie Middlebrooks, Will Poole, Ike Reese, Joel Smeenge, John Welbourn, Roy L. Williams (the man after whom the horse-collar rule was named), Marcel Shipp, Adewale Ogunleye, and Charlie Frye.

That’s right. Charlie Frye is in now too. This is going to be ugly for the NFL. Expect it to drag out a very long time and be especially inclusive of the time period where the NFL is negotiating and signing new TV deals.

It makes sense too, as the effects of concussions can be – and frequently are presumed to be – ongoing. It will be interesting to see how it all plays out because the NFL is almost definitely going to be found at least partially liable. Simultaneously, based on my unscientific research it seems like the general public also feels as if players should take some responsibility for knowingly taking on some risk for large contractual rewards.

We’ll see how the courts decide.

[Related: Report: Goodell will “drop the hammer” on players involved in bounty scandal]

  • Seth

    I saw an article about four months ago talking about the end of American Football as we know it. At first I was laughing, because there’s no way, with the sport being so popular right now, that the sport would be non-existent. Reading the article though… it basically laid out how the NFL will cease to exist because of …..drum roll…… law suits. The NFL would be on the losing side of the law suit and therefore turn into a non-profitable sport. Amazing, but maybe not as far fetched, especially when you read about all these players suing the NFL. 
    I am split on the topic though. I think the players before the 80’s have a valid point. They just didn’t know enough about concussions back then. Players like Couch and Frye though, I can not bring up any sympathy. They were ok taking the hundreds of thousands of dollars that they were paid to play the game, knowing that there was a risk involved. To me, they are the epitome of what is wrong with this country. It’s all fun and games until someone gets hurt, even though everybody knew that somebody could get hurt. I mean what is next: fire fighters and police men suing because they have to work in dangerous environments? I don’t know. My heart does go out to the players that have to deal with the results of playing a physical sport, but didn’t know what was at stake 

  • Seth

    I guess it only has been two months since this article came out, I guess I am concussed too

  • BrownsFanSF

    Another aspect of the “demise of football” that I have heard talked about, and is hinted at a little in the article, is the talent exodus that could take place in the NFL.  It would take decades, but the idea is pretty simple:

    Without relying too heavily on stereotypes, dads already have a hard enough time convincing moms to let their kids play football (or moms convincing dads or what ever).  What happens when this research  really builds about how terrible this sport is for your body?  The answer is that slowly kids start playing soccer or going to basketball and wrestling camps instead of playing football.

    In the end it’s a tiny portion of the population that can play any professional sport. On some level the NBA, MLB, MLS and NFL are competing for these elite athletes.  Particularly the NBA and NFL (and some QBs who could be pitchers) are fighting for the less than 1% of humans who can entertain at that high of a level.

    If football is that bad for you, the NFL is going to lose it’s talent pool to “safer” sports over the course of decades.

    I think what ever argument you want to bring up for it, the NFL is going to change whether we like it or not.  One of my favorite Tuesday Morning Quarterback points was that less than 1% of  people who play organized football do so professionally.  If the game doesn’t change it’s going to lose those roots.  And when the roots go, the NFL withers away

  • NeedsFoodBadly

    This is what happened with boxing, interestingly. Lost a lot of future boxers to…. FOOTBALL. 

    I played football in HS, and I love the sport, but I do wonder if I had a son if I’d let him play.

  • porckchopexpress

    I think that most of the real hard science has only started to come out in the last 10 years, and from what I know of it, NFL owners have acted exactly like tobacco companies in their refusal to acknowledge the danger.

    I also think the flip side to what you see as the epitome of what is wrong with this country is this; What’s wrong with this country is that its all fun and games when you are making obscene profit margins, holding cities hostage for free stadiums, marketing your entertainment as the ultimate combination of athleticism and brutality (when did the last Big Hits of the NFL disc sell?) And when the people whose lives we have ruined to make our billions come to demanding accountability we blame them because they “should have known better than to take part in something as dangerous as the business we run”.

  • porckchopexpress

    I am lucky to have daughters to this point but if I do have a son I will never let him play football.  As a long time bartender in the HOF city I see some of the same HOF faces every year.  I can tell you that it is tough to see guys who, even if their mental facilities are intact, struggle to get out of a chair at 45-50 years old.  I don’t want to know what amount of morphine derivatives they injest to not feel the pain but seeing them barely 10 years older than me walking like my 90 year old grandfather makes me sad every year.  It was a great run, but I hope my grandchildren view football like I view doing the Charleston on a highwire above a skyscraper.

  • DonFelder

    “It will be interesting to see how it all plays out because the NFL is almost definitely going to be found at least partially liable.”

    You think? Have you checked with reputable personal injury attorneys for their takes? I’m not a personal injury attorney, but I am an attorney and a litigator, and this is conclusory at best and quite possibly completely wrong. 

    I hate playing the “I’m an attorney” card, but seeing unsupported conclusions like that on a reputable site like this is painful. There are a lot of legal and factual issues with this case. And at bottom, there is just the plain old fact that many jurors might not be nearly as sympathetic with guys who made millions playing a clearly violent game (i.e., it’s arguably not rocket science that there might be long-term health implications associated with playing football) as they would be with auto workers and other average joes who smoked 3 packs a day not understanding what it was doing to their bodies.  

  • mgbode

    my kids are playing flag football until middle school.  i’ll re-evaluate then, but it’s going to be tough to bite that bullet and I love football. 

    hopefully, they love baseball or basketball so much that it’s less of an issue by then.

    i’m not completely ruling it out though.  i think alot can be done just from properly fitting mouthpieces that are actually worn, helmet straps being strapped and football helmets being properly fitted. 

  • porckchopexpress

    I think at the very least “partial” liability is a forgone conclusion.  I have read that as far back as the mid 80’s to early 90’s the NFL had access to information that drew links between long term cognitive issues and players taking blows to the head while still feeling the effects of previous concussions.     I don’t remember what year Mike Webster died, around 2000, but the examination of his brain clearly linked football head injuries and long term health issues.  The NFL waited a decade before moving on this information.  It wasn’t  until they were faced with lawsuits that the NFL made any meaningful changes to their policies regarding head injuries.  If there is one thing that resoundingling says “We are liable” it is changing your policies due to a lawsuit.  
    As a lawyer you should know that the players being aware of the “violence” of their job is not an acceptable defense to these types of charges.  And while jurors may not side with millionaires, many of the men in these lawsuits are in fact broke or nearly broke and living on some form of public assistance. 
    Here would be my opening line to a jury; “You see that billionaire?  The guy that you built a half billion dollar stadium for?  He made a huge chunk of his money glorifying the violence of the game of football, and for 99% of the history of his business he took zero action to ensure his employees health and safety were being looked out for, even after it became apparent that something needed to be done.  Now those employees are suffering serious brain issues can’t hold down a job, and are living on public assistance.  You made this man rich beyond imagination and now you are paying for the health care of his former workers.” 
    If I ran a factory that had asbestos insulation, and I had even the tiniest idea of the link between respiratory diseases and asbestos, and I took ZERO action to protect my workers until somebody filed a lawsuit, some form of liability would be definitive. 

  • porckchopexpress

    I don’t know, some of the stuff I’ve read, which admitedly comes down on the extreme safety side, says that young people are more at risk because their brains are still developing,  that being said, how many of us played high school football and haven’t suffered any long term issues.  Then again we are all Cleveland fans which indicates some cognitive deficency.  Better just get them into soccer 🙂

    The one thing I’m shocked that hasn’t become part of these lawsuits is the over administering of painkillers.   When you see the number of players who have heart, liver, and kidney issues, all of which are clearly linked to over used of prescription painkillers, and you know these guys have an unlimited supply of said painkillers provided by team doctors, it seems such an open and shut case.  

  • Harv 21

    thank you, Don.

  • DonFelder

    There are so many assumptions and legal problems with this post that I don’t have time to address them all right now. There are also some pretty clear differences from your garden variety workplace hazard case. But I will try and come back tonight to explain. 

    For now though, I’m curious about how you conclude that every possible juror would think as you do. Look at these comments: http://profootballtalk.nbcsports.com/2012/04/24/tim-couch-courtney-brown-join-concussion-lawsuits/#comments . Those are potential jurors (granted, this isn’t exactly representative or scientific), and the lion’s share of them on that thread don’t seem to share your sympathy.

  • Garry_Owen

    I played football in HS and college, had multiple concussions, and now have a son.  I love the game passionately, but there’s no way I’m even mentioning the possibility of my son playing.  Concussions definitely have a long-term and cumulative effect.  We’re sticking with baseball (and bowling – he’s got quite a roll), as far as I’m concerned. 

    It would be much tougher if he feels the pull to play and desires it as much as I did when I was a kid.  It helps, though, that he’s too short, weighs nothing, and follows after his dad in general lack of God-given athletic ability.  I doubt, and frankly hope, that he doesn’t feel a pull for the game.     

  • Garry_Owen

    Man, do I miss those high halcion days of dancing the Charleston on a highwire above skyscrapers.

  • EyesAbove

    Couch must be running out of money. 

  • mgbode

    yes, the younger the brain, the bigger the effects.   it’s why peewee isn’t even an option for my kids (flag football only).   and why I’m tabling the discussion about 8th grade and beyond for now (going to re-weigh it when they get there – 7 more years of medical studies)

    also, painkillers should be a separate lawsuit.  especially in the NFL and college.  it’s ridiculous how they administer them (remember wk1 in 2010 when Adrian was running gingerly, then they give him a spinal injection and he is running like a madman in the 2nd half – ummm, the pain is telling you something isn’t right and to ignore it is not good)

  • porckchopexpress

    I am sorry to cause such a an unexpected workload as to make you continue this after hours. I think you have something you want to believe and are reading things into what I wrote to accomodate that belief.
    Lets be clear as to my post. The NFL has done nothing until 2010 to address player safety in regards to head injuries. I don’t think that this is debatable. The NFL has had access to information saying they should have done something predating the time that they took action, and they only took real action after the prospect of lawsuits materialized. This also is not debatable.
    Their lack of action in the past, the acknowledgment of that lack of action, the fact that they already have made some concessions to retired players mean that the NFL has already accepted at least Partial liability. WIll it result in a billion dollar settlement? Who knows but what you are saying is conclusory at best has already in fact begun to happen.                                                                                                      Now where on earth did I state that “Every possible juror would think like I do?” Save me your desire to teach me the law, if you can extrapolate from what I wrote that I believe my argument is absolutely right you need to go back to school. The only thing I wrote is that jurors might be more sympathetic to broke players than billionaire owners.  Please learn to read if you are going to respond. 
    And since you decided to broach the subject of my inadequacies in the law, allow me to retort regarding your “prospective jurors”. Those are not potential jurors, those are people who have clearly expressed strong opinions on this subject which, maybe at the Bazooka Joe school of law is not a big deal. In the real world no attorney in the world would select these type of people to sit on a case like this. The people selected would be those who couldn’t tell a Quarterback from a Nickleback. Your use of a comment site to say a jury wouldn’t be sympathetic to players is like me using the comment section on white supremacist board to determine if jurors would be sympathetic to Trayvon Martin. Or is that another “garden variety” example that doesn’t fit. Honestly how can you possibly use that as a source for proof that jurors wouldn’t be sympathetic. Would you allow people as compromised as this to sit in judgement of a case you were arguing?

    Finally Mr. Lawyer you should also know as I do that this thing has a snowballs chance in hell of actually making it to court because with a couple billion dollars on the table both sides are going to seek a settlement because its very tough to guage how a jury would decide this case but there is enough doubt on both sides that they don’t want to take the chance.

    I’m kind of sorry if this comes of sounding like a flaming jerk but, if you are going to patronize my understanding of the law, then backdoor by saying you “don’t have time to explain”, then misconstrue what I say, then show a complete lack of understanding as to how juries are selected by using a freaking comment section from a football site, then I’m going to get my pants bunched up. Finally I have no doubt as to your authenticity of being a lawyer and I have no doubt that you could fill a website with legal terms and case history that will prove to you that I’m an idiot. I also am confident that what I have read of this case informs me that the NFL is facing a very serious issue, that players have a legitimate greviance and a potential to win a very large settlement. If you wish to respond, which at this point I’m sure you don’t please do, but do not do so by telling me you don’t have time to tell me why I’m wrong or make up whatever you want to believe I said. Thanks

  • mgbode

    also, with currently so many kids being pushed into football and basketball, baseball might be the sweet spot to get a full ride to college.

    I hate the college baseball scheduling though.  if you are at a bigtime school it works (games during the week are almost always at home), but if you are not, then the entire spring semester through Finals you are traveling which is not conducive to getting an education.

  • Garry_Owen

    What do you call 2 attorneys on the same internet comment board?

    I’m with you.  I hate playing the “attorney card,” too, and generally avoid it as much as possible, but I agree that there are serious obstacles to the players success.  I also don’t litigate PI, and it’s been a relatively long time since my torts class (and I may be showing my fatally flawed understanding of the subject), but I think that they, at best, are looking at relief under a contributory/comparative negligence principle – if the NFL isn’t entirely indemnified by the players’ knowing/reckless conduct. 

    There will be a settlement, the named players (and the class? Is there a class?) will get paid, but football will survive.    

  • porckchopexpress

    Don, I’m so sorry,  I didn’t read through those comments closely before I responded.  I had no idea what a great source for an argument on jury selection that was. 

    I mean just one read of this comment and I see how little I know:

    lombardihero says:Apr 24, 2012 7:27 PM
    Every time a person like Tim Couch joins this lawsuit the jurors are going to start to put two and two together and realize this is more about getting money than it is about actual concussions.I bet all those concussions is what made Tim Couch suck.I can easily see lombardihero walking in for jury selection with his best cheesehead and Bart Starr throwback jersey on.  Telling the lawyers how “All those concussions made Tim Couch suck?”  Again, my heartfelt apologies for everything I wrote, if I could take it all back I would.  I just can’t believe I would be so stupid as to assume that the single cell organisms that populate football chat sites wouldn’t be sympathetic to players.  And those people make up something like 99% of the population of the country.  I’m going outside to self immolate right now.  Don’t worry the shreiking will be in joy of freeing myself from own stupidity on this subject.

  • Garry_Owen

    Agree.  I don’t know how they do it. 

    Also, I’ve always sort of seen baseball as the “common man’s” hope for professional glory.  It definitely takes a great deal of inherent talent to play the game at a high level, but God-given talent is not nearly as determinitive as it is in football and basketball.  The guys that play those games professionally are simply physical freaks.  There’s no other way around it.  There are certainly freaks in MLB, but there’s also a solid population of “every man” (see the Indians line-up).

    Of course, none of this is why I want my son to play.  I just want him to develop a love for the game and enjoy athletic competition. 

  • mgbode

    agree that in baseball it is almost more about the work ethic and dedication as it is the physical prowess.   guys like Tony Gwynn that just spent hours upon hours learning to make contact with a bat in their hands.

    and yes, if my kids develop a passion and enjoy the competition, then I will be happy whether it be sports, math contests, debates, etc.

  • The_Real_Shamrock

    Couch and Brown suffered their first concussions when having their names announced as #1 picks by the Cleveland Browns.

  • porckchopexpress

    Speaking of possible side effects from too many painkillers 🙂

  • BrownsFanSF

    I’d say that’s about as well as I’ve heard it said.  Bravo!

  • BrownieBob

    ah YES …The american way….when in doubt lets sue….I have been wronged!!!!…..Free easy money……please….save all the comments…..IF  and i mean IF this gets any legs it will eventually become a class action lawsuit…….The NFL ” settles ” for 2 billion out of court….admits no wrongdoing…….AND THEN…the real beauty of the American justice system…..a 300 lawyer law firm gets 660 million !!!!…and the 10000 or so living retired NFL players and almost players get a measley 138 grand apiece……( That will buy alot of medicine ..right )….of course NO ONE will point out the LUNACY of this settlement…..And of course ..JUSTICE WAS SERVED…..And as those multimillionaire lawyers buy up all the suites at their favorite NFL stadiums…..the hurt ,mentally disabled,crippled, demented,arthritic, ruined former players try to figure out how to make that 138 grand stretch to pay their bills………THAT my friends is what this is all about…..As Gordon Gekko once said…..GREED IS GOOD…..trust me ….no one will give a rats ass about the players or their ” health ” in the end……..

  • Seth

    I am not talking about the NFL here. I am talking about players making an individual choice. Yeah sure, the NFL is making an obscene amount of money. But is it their fault that a guy makes a decision (his own decision) to play football knowing there is a risk. That is what is wrong, the lack of owning up to your own decisions and mistakes. The people whose lives we have ruined actually decided to ruin their lives themselves. 

  • BrownsFanSF

    I guess the million dollar question (the cigarette company comparison is good here) is “How much did the NFL know, versus how much did the players know?”

    It’s possible that the players didn’t know the full extent of the risk, while the league did.  Instead of informing the players or making changes based on those risks, they just kept the registers running.

  • Here are also some pretty clear variation from your garden variety
    workplace hazard case. But I will try and come to back tonight to explain more about it.