Mike Freeman: ‘Tougher For This Group To Force The NFL Into Settlement’

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4 Sep 1988: Defensive lineman Richard Dent of the Chicago Bears (center) works against the Miami Dolphins during a game at Soldier Field in Chicago, Illinois. The Bears won the game, 34-7.

Richard Dent (Credit: Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)

The NFL is facing yet another lawsuit from retired players – this time regarding the use of painkillers – and very few people seem to care.

“It’s crazy,” Bleacher Report NFL columnist Mike Freeman said on The John Feinstein Show. “At some point, you expect all of these (issues) – criminal matters, DUIs, lawsuits, class-action suits, painkillers, concussions – to have some sort of effect on the ratings, on the product. And it has none. In fact, it’s been the opposite. The NFL gets more popular and popular despite all this stuff. It’s crazy.”

“This latest one with the painkillers is another very serious one. It will be tougher for this group of guys to force the NFL into a settlement the way the guys with the concussion lawsuits (did). But this one is still going to be interesting.”

More than 500 former players are suing the NFL, claiming that the league administered pain killers without prescriptions and without informing players of the short- and long-term effects of using those painkillers.

“What you’re going to hear is all the sordid tales of the pill-popping, the Toradol shots – you’re going to hear all that stuff,” Freeman said. “It’s going to be another hit to the NFL. You’re already hearing all these stories, these crazy stories.”

There are currently eight plaintiffs involved in the lawsuit: Richard Dent, Roy Green, J.D. Hill, Jim McMahon, Jeremy Newberry, Ron Pritchard, Ron Stone and Keith Van Horne.

“I know some of the guys that filed the lawsuit,” Freeman said. “I covered them. I know Richard Dent. They’re smart, sensible guys. Are they in it for the money? Sure. I mean, if someone says it’s not about the money, that’s not true. But these are sensible guys.”

John Feinstein has witnessed NFL players get shots before games. To him, there was never a sense of a player thinking or saying, “I don’t want to do this.” Rather, it was, “I need to do this to be on the field.”

That doesn’t make it right, Feinstein observed, but it might make it harder to prove that players were somehow duped by the NFL.

“That’s a great point,” Freeman said. “There’s two things (at play) there. One of the things the NFL is going to say – and you’re already seeing fans say it – is, You had a choice. You chose to do this profession, so there are risks inherent, and one of the risks is you may have to take painkillers to play.”

Players, on the other hand, will argue that the NFL knew more than it let on and didn’t properly warn players of the risks associated with painkillers.

“That’s completely debatable,” Freeman said. “This lawsuit will go on for months, if not years, and be fought over. But (whether the NFL knew or didn’t know was) the core of the (concussion) lawsuit, and that’ll be the core of this.”

There will also be a line drawn in the sand between personal choice and pressure to play. Feinstein recalls Ray Lewis getting two painkiller shots in order to play with a broken wrist against the Pittsburgh Steelers. Unfortunately for Lewis, the pain meds wore off in the fourth quarter. When he tried to tackle Jerome Bettis, he was in so much pain that his knees buckled.

“Who’s that on?” Freeman wondered. “Is that on the team? Is that on Ray Lewis? That’s where it gets murky. Ray Lewis just could have said, ‘I’m not doing this. But the macho part of the sport is, I’m not letting even a broken wrist stop me from playing, so I’m going to go play. The team didn’t make him go play. He made the decision. And that’s one of the elements of this.

“It’s going to be interesting to watch,” Freeman continued. “The NFL is going to have to play a little defense here, but whether or not these players win it is a complete different thing.”

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