The most recent concussion lawsuit filed against the NFL includes the MVP of Super Bowl XXVI, former Redskins quarterback Mark Rypien.
Rypien, who was a full-time starter for fewer than three of his 12 NFL seasons, says that memory loss prompted him to take action.
“It got to a point where it made me concerned and now I’m thinking, ‘Gosh, what do the next 10 years look like?’” Rypien told Nathan Fenno of the Washington Times. “Then you become a little bit scared.”
Rypien said that he suffered four or five concussions in the NFL, along with 15 to 20 other times he was “not in my right state” after being hit.
“We need to take care of our people,” Rypien said, “not look after how much money we’re going to make based on putting people out there in very precarious, scary positions and really engaging them in a life-threatening practice.”
That’s what the NFL is now doing, to the chagrin of many fans who want to see large men crash violently and repeatedly into each other. The challenge in the litigation will be to determine when the NFL knew or should have known about the long-term health risks of concussions, whether the NFL concealed that information, and whether the NFL thereafter took steps aimed at making the game safer. There’s possibly a window of time in which the NFL knew there was a problem but opted to deny its existence for fear of fundamentally altering the game.
But this entire case will play out against the background of the reality that it should have been obvious that banging bodies together could cause all sorts of short-term and long-term health effects. Whether that makes any difference in the litigation will depend largely on the composition and mindset of the jury selected to hear the case, if it ever gets that far.
It likely won’t. Like most lawsuits, the lawyers will grind out the billable hours for a couple of years (it’s called “not leaving money in the file”) and then find a way to settle it.
Moving forward, there will always be more than enough young men, even now with the risks fully known, who will choose to believe that, in 20 or more years, they will be one of the former players who functions perfectly fine — assuming that anyone in his early 20s is even capable of caring about their condition 20 or more years from now.