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Judge orders NFL, players to negotiate

Tue., July 9, 2013, midnight

Ann Easterling, the widow of former player Ray Easterling, reacts after April hearing on concussion-related injuries in the NFL. (Associated Press)
Ann Easterling, the widow of former player Ray Easterling, reacts after April hearing on concussion-related injuries in the NFL. (Associated Press)

Football: The NFL and former players must try to negotiate a dispute over whether complaints about concussion-related injuries belong in court or in arbitration, a federal judge said Monday.

U.S. District Judge Anita B. Brody of Philadelphia had planned to rule July 22 in a legal fight that involves about 4,200 former players and could be worth billions of dollars.

But instead she ordered the two sides to begin mediation with retired federal Judge Layn Phillips. The retirees want the right to sue the league, while the NFL insists the claims must be arbitrated under terms of the collective bargaining agreement.

Brody asked for a progress report by Sept. 3, while placing a gag order on the lawyers. Both sides agreed to comply.

Many former players say they suffer from dementia, Alzheimer’s disease and other neurological conditions, which they believe stem from on-field concussions. The league insists that safety has always been a top priority.

Both sides have something to fear from a court ruling. Brody could throw out the lawsuits and steer them to arbitration; or accept some or all of them, and open up internal NFL files to plaintiffs’ lawyers looking for a smoking gun. Still, sports law professor Marc Edelman, who teaches at Fordham University and Baruch College, called it “highly unlikely” that either side would budge during mediation.

In legal arguments before Brody in April, NFL lawyer Paul Clement said teams bear the chief responsibility for health and safety under the contract, along with the players’ union and the players themselves. Players’ lawyer David Frederick accused the league of concealing studies linking concussions to neurological problems for decades.

In recent years, a string of former NFL players and other concussed athletes have been diagnosed after their deaths with chronic traumatic encephalopathy, or CTE, including popular Pro Bowler Junior Seau and lead plaintiff Ray Easterling. Both committed suicide last year.

About one-third of the league’s 12,000 former players have joined the litigation since 2011.

• Former NFL player sues Redskins : A former NFL player is suing the Washington Redskins and former assistant coach Gregg Williams, saying a career-ending knee injury is the result of a bounty program where Redskins coaches encouraged players to intentionally injure opponents.

Barrett Green, a linebacker who played for the Detroit Lions and the New York Giants between 2000 and 2005, says a career-ending knee injury during a game on Dec. 5, 2004 was the result of a bounty program and an “unusual, outrageous, and an obvious cheap shot.”

The lawsuit also names former Redskins player Robert Royal, the tight end who hit Green.

• Co-defendant in murder case held without bail: A man facing an accessory to murder charge in the case involving former New England Patriots tight end Aaron Hernandez has been ordered held without bail.

Ernest Wallace, of Miramar, Fla., pleaded not guilty in Attleboro, Mass., court.

Odin Lloyd was found slain June 17 at an industrial park in North Attleborough not far from Hernandez’s home.

Prosecutors say Wallace and another man, Carlos Ortiz, were with Hernandez when they drove with Lloyd to the industrial park. Prosecutors say Hernandez orchestrated the killing because he was upset at Lloyd.

• Hall of Famer’s son charged with rape: Police in suburban Atlanta say a man who identified himself as the son of NFL Hall of Famer Lawrence Taylor has been arrested on rape charges.

Powder Springs police said that 31-year-old Lawrence Taylor Jr. is accused of having sex with two underage girls. Police say one girl accused Taylor of sexually assaulting her July 6, and that another accused him of having consensual sex with her.

Daly withdraws from British Open

Golf: John Daly withdrew from the British Open because he will have surgery on his right elbow this week that will end his PGA Tour season.

Daly said he first noticed something wrong with his right elbow at the Byron Nelson Championship in May, and tests revealed a torn tendon. He said doctors told him he could try to play as long as he didn’t hit a rock or a tree root.

This will be the first time Daly, 47, has missed the British Open since 1999 at Carnoustie.

Trinidad and Tobago, El Savador draw

Soccer: Kenwyne Jones scored in the 72nd minute to give Trinidad and Tobago a 2-2 draw with El Salvador in the first round of the CONCACAF Gold Cup at Harrison, N.J.

Jones got in the box and beat Dagoberto Portillo with a crossed shot to tie the game.

Also, Rony Martinez and Marvin Chavez scored to lead Honduras to a 2-0 win over Haiti.


 
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