The NFL is facing a seemingly endless stream of lawsuits from former players over safety and concussions, a considerable challenge for the league and its lawyers.
Last week, however, the league did catch one break from a potential plaintiff that it might not mind cross-examining on a witness stand.
Of all the questions that former Detroit Lion Lomas Brown is facing in the wake of admitting he once allowed an opponent to get a free shot on his own quarterback, Scott Mitchell, in the hope Mitchell would be injured, this might be the most uncomfortable:
How does a player who admits he blatantly attempted to put his own teammate's health at risk continue to sue the NFL for putting its players' health at risk?
Brown and his wife, Wendy, are part of a group that sued the NFL in April 2012 in Georgia state court seeking compensatory and punitive damages for "the NFL's failure to face the truth" about concussions and the violent nature of football.
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"This action seeks compensatory damages from the NFL to compensate Plaintiffs for their injuries; punitive damages to punish the NFL for its willful misconduct; and equitable relief for the detection and treatment of latent injuries," the suit, filed in Fulton County demands.
The complaint is a 48-page firebomb of direct accusations and attacks that assail the NFL for its wanton disregard for the health and safety of its players and its promotion of violence. It even cited the New Orleans Saints bounty scandal, including comments from former defensive coordinator Gregg Williams to show the league's opinion on player safety.
"Williams deliberately encouraged his players to injure the 49ers," the lawsuit rails.
Of course, Brown didn't admit he deliberately allowed an opponent to run past him and potentially get a free hit on another player.
"This gladiator mentality may have allowed the NFL to generate enormous profits, but it has left its players with serious life-altering injuries, including various degrees of brain damage," the suit reads.
Brown's attorney, Von DuMont, a partner with the Bondurant, Mixson and Elmore law firm that brought the lawsuit, did not respond to requests for comment Wednesday.
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The issues that Brown raises in the lawsuit are legitimate and common – he is one of more than 1,000 players suing the league in various suits over concussion issues. At this point, however, he makes for a lousy plaintiff and, at the very least, the only one who has publicly admitted to sandbagging a blocking assignment in the hopes his quarterback got knocked out of the game.
Brown spent 18 years in the NFL as an offensive tackle, including a stint with the Lions from 1985-1995. During the 1994 season, frustrated by the play of Mitchell, the Lions' quarterback, Brown said he decided to do his part to get a switch at signal-caller.
"We were playing Green Bay in Milwaukee," Brown told ESPN Radio. "We were getting beat [24-0] at the time and Mitchell just stunk up the place. He's throwing interceptions, just everything. So I looked at Kevin Glover, our all-pro center, and I said, 'Glove, that is it.'
"I said, 'I'm getting him out the game.' So I got the gator arms on the guy at the last minute, he got around me, he hit Scott Mitchell, he did something to his finger … and he came out of the game. Dave Krieg came in the game."
Mitchell suffered a broken finger. He called Brown's acts "reprehensible" to USA Today this week.
"I'm dumbfounded that he would do such a thing," Mitchell said. "I mean people get hurt playing this game. People have died playing football, and for him to allow someone to take a shot at a teammate, that's crazy."
Per the lawsuit, Brown would agree. The filing attacks the NFL for not seeing players as people.
"Donned with armor that consists of plastic helmets and padding, the NFL encourages its players to believe that they are invincible," the suit reads.
"But the truth is that an NFL player is not a gladiator, and he is certainly not invincible. Just like anyone else, an NFL player is human, and the human brain is nothing more than soft jelly-like tissue easily susceptible to permanent damage."
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