We’ve heard all sorts of wild speculation about the concussion lawsuits and how they might “bring down” the NFL. I guess anything is possible, but as usual we have a bunch of sportswriters playing lawyer and speculating about the most extreme possible results.
I have no idea what is going to happen. I haven’t studied the briefs and I certainly haven’t seen any of the discovery materials that may or may not be produced. I’m a lawyer, and I know that it’s impossible to predict the outcome of a case like this because so little information is available. Maybe there’s a “smoking gun” memo in the NFL files that proves the owners intentionally withheld medical information about concussions from the players. Maybe such a thing doesn’t exist. We’ll all have to wait and see.
But I do know that the assumption of risk by the players will be a major element in these lawsuits, and NFL attorneys will have plenty of examples to draw upon. The latest statements from Troy Polamalu helps the owners’ case, not that of the players:
Polamalu said on the Dan Patrick Show that he has lied about symptoms of concussions so that he’d be cleared to stay on the field.
“Yes, I have, for sure,” Polamalu said.
But he distinguishes between major injuries and minor ones where he’s just banged up. But he also applies that to getting his bell rung.
“I’ve had, I believe, eight or nine recorded concussions. We’ll have another conversation after I’m done playing football,” Polamalu said. “When you get your bell rung they consider that a concussion — I wouldn’t. . . . If that is considered a concussion, I’d say any football player at least records 50 to 100 concussions a year.”
So why is Polamalu willing to lie? He says it’s all about being there for his team.
Polamalu has the drive of a great player and intense competitor. This is the culture of the NFL, and players like him are rewarded in many ways by his team, his teammates, the media etc.
The question in the lawsuits will be how can players hold ownership liable when most players would avoid coming off the field? Are the owners liable as a result of this culture, or is it something that’s just a part of football, meaning that all the players assumed this risk?