Died Former Atlanta Falcons safety Ray Easterling, who helped lead the team’s vaunted defense in the 1970s and later filed a high-profile lawsuit against the NFL targeting the league’s handling of concussion-related injuries, has died. He was 62. Easterling played for the Falcons from 1972 to 1979, helping to lead the team’s “Gritz Blitz” defense in 1977 that set the NFL record for fewest points allowed in a season. After his football career, he went on to start a successful financial services company in Richmond, Va. He died Thursday, his wife Mary Ann Easterling said. After his playing days were over, Easterling started to suffer the consequences of the years of bruising hits, his wife said. He suffered from depression and insomnia, and as his dementia progressed he lost the ability to focus, organize his thoughts and relate to people, she said. He was part of a group of seven former players who sued the NFL in Philadelphia in August, claiming that the league failed to properly treat players for concussions and tried to conceal for decades any links between football and brain injuries. It was the first potential class-action lawsuit that was filed.
Sidelined The Cleveland Cavaliers shut down center Anderson Varejao for the remainder of the NBA season with a broken right wrist. Varejao’s wrist has not healed completely since he injured it Feb. 10 against Milwaukee. He was averaging 10.8 points and 11.5 rebounds before getting hurt.
Retired Portland Timbers forward Eddie Johnson retired after a 10-year professional soccer career in England and the United States. The 27-year-old Johnson joined the Timbers before their inaugural season last year but has been hampered by injuries, including a third concussion in February. Johnson’s career started with Manchester United and he appeared with the first team during the 2003-04 season. He played for several English clubs before moving to the United States in 2009. The Timbers also acquired forward Mike Fucito from the Montreal Impact in exchange for a second-round SuperDraft pick or an international roster slot next year. The 26-year-old Fucito was acquired by the Impact in a trade with Seattle in February.
Qualified Former world champion Caster Semenya qualified for the 800 meters at the London Olympics. The South African qualified with a time of 1 minute, 59.58 seconds in a provincial meet on her home track at the University of Pretoria.
Signed An independent league team in Massachusetts signed former major league slugger Jose Canseco, 47. The Worcester Tornadoes of the Can-Am League said he agreed to a contract for one season.