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Seau

NFL: Legally bound

Sound of the other shoe dropping ...

Junior Seau's family is filing a wrongful death suit against the NFL in the wake of Seau's suicide last May, holding the league directly responsible for the posthumous diagnosis of chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE) that led to his death.

Here's what I have to say about that: Get used to it, Roger Goodell. Your league hasn't seen the last of these lawsuits.

There'll be more to come because there'll be more former players with deteriorating brain function down the road, and if it'll be hard to prove the NFL is directly responsible for that, it's certainly complicit. And that's in spite of the refrain I always hear when one of these lawsuits come down the pipe, which is: "Well, these guys knew the risks when they signed on to play the game."

Um, no, they didn't. Not in this case.

Sure, when you put on the helmets and pads and decide to play, you know there's a chance you're gonna get hurt. You know there's a chance you're gonna blow out a knee or a shoulder or spring a few ribs or, yes, suffer a concussion or three. Or 12.

What you don't bank on is that by the time you're 40 years old, you can't remember your children's names. What you don't bank on is by the time you're 50, your mental faculties have so eroded that one day you decide the only way out is to put a gun in your mouth.

You know why you don't bank on that?

Because the NFL didn't want you to.

As far back as two decades ago there were whispers that concussions were more than a just knock in the head, yet the NFL kept silent. Even as recently as five or six years ago, league officials were publicly denying concussions were a serious problem in the NFL -- even with an increasing number of former players struggling with physical problems linked to diminished brain function.

"They knew the risks"? Does anyone seriously believe any sane person would cast his lot with football if he knew he'd be drooling in his soup by the time he was 40?

Of course not. And for those who so blithely talk about the "risks" as some sort of get-out-of-jail-free card for the NFL, I invite them to spend a few hours sitting in the lobby of the headquarters hotel in Canton, Ohio, on the weekend of the Pro Football Hall of Fame induction.

You'll see Mel Renfro, the fleet old defensive back for the Cowboys, walking with a cane. You'll see Willie Davis, the fearsome Packers defensive end, hobbling around like he's walking barefoot on broken glass. And then there's Earl Campbell, who's my age (57) and can no longer walk up a flight of stairs.

Men old before their time, all of them. And that's not even counting the ones who, before they're 50, live their lives in a perpetual mental fog more common to men 25 or 30 years older.

You can't put all of that on the NFL. But the league's ignored enough of it for far too long to say it hasn't bought these lawsuits, every single one.

Ben Smith's blog.

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