Former Tampa Bay Buccaneers defensive tackle Brad Culpepper is the lead plaintiff in a lawsuit filed Monday against the National Football League that requests compensatory and punitive damages in excess of $5 million for allegedly misrepresenting and concealing the long-term effects of head injuries.
According to the suit, filed in U.S. District Court in Pennsylvania, the NFL "produced industry-funded, biased research and advocacy that actively misrepresented that concussions and subconcussive head impacts do not (or may not) present serious, life-altering risks.''
Culpepper, 43, was a five-year starter for the Bucs and also played for the Vikings and Bears during a nine-year NFL career after being drafted out of the University of Florida. He currently is a personal injury attorney in Tampa.
"Currently, Mr. Culpepper suffers from various neurological conditions and symptoms related to multiple head traumas,'' according to the lawsuit.
A separate suit, seeking more than $75,000 in damages, was filed against the NFL on Monday by ex-Buccaneer offensive tackle Charley Hannah, 56.
Both were filed by Philadelphia attorney Gene Locks of Locks Law Firm.
"Everyone is focused on concussions instead of repeated blows to the head,'' Hannah said Thursday. "My suit focuses on more subtle brain injuries that are easily recognizable and treatable. To me, the more widespread problems are head injuries that create lifestyle issues for so many former players.''
The league was steadfast in its response to the recently filed lawsuits.
"The NFL has long made player safety a priority and continues to do so," league spokesman Greg Aiello said in an email. "Any allegation that the NFL intentionally sought to mislead players has no merit. It stands in contrast to the league's actions to better protect players and advance the science and medical understanding of the management and treatment of concussions.
Others plaintiffs among the 26 former players in Culpepper's suit include former University of Florida standout receiver Ricky Nattiel, who played six seasons with the Broncos, former Pro Bowl punter Jim Arnold and former defensive end Joe Tafoya, who was drafted by the Bucs in 2001 before playing six years with Chicago, Seattle and Arizona.
"Today I signed up for the NFL concussion lawsuit,'' Tafoya said on his Twitter account. "Trying to remember how many times I was dizzy after hitting someone was not easy.''
Overall, more than 1,800 former players are suing the NFL regarding the league's conduct in dealing with concussions and head injuries.
"This action arises from the pathological and debilitating effects of head injuries and concussions that have afflicted present and former professional football players in the NFL,'' according to Culpepper's suit.
"The NFL, as the organizer, marketer and face of the most popular sport in the United States, in which head trauma is a regular occurrence, was aware of the evidence and the risks associated with repetitive traumatic brain injuries and concussions for decades, but deliberately ignored and actively concealed the information from the plaintiffs and all others who participated in organized football at all levels.''
Locks hopes the Culpepper and Hannah lawsuits spur more action by the NFL on the issue of head injuries.
"I think the league has started to show its interest and I'm comfortable that at some point in time they will do the right thing,'' Locks said from his office Thursday. "Sometimes, it takes legal involvement to get their attention. I think we've gotten their attention.''