Former Ravens running back Jamal Lewis is one of four ex-NFL players who are suing the league over brain injuries that they say have impaired their post-football lives, according to an Associated Press report.
Lewis and Dorsey Levens, Fulton Kuykendall and Ryan Stewart, filed the lawsuit against the National Football League and NFL Properties LLC this week in U.S. District Court in Atlanta, saying the NFL knew as early as the 1920s of the potential for concussions to harm its players but only went public last year.
“The NFL has done everything in its power to hide the issue and mislead players concerning the risks associated with concussions,” the players argue in the lawsuit.
“While athletes in other professional sports who had suffered concussions were being effectively ‘shut down’ for long periods of time or full seasons, NFL protocol was to return players who had suffered concussions to the very game in which the injury occurred,” the lawsuit states.
Lewis, who spent time speaking to Ravens players Thursday in Baltimore, said he could not discuss the details of the suit.
“It’s something that I’m very concerned about,” he said of concussion awareness. “It’s just about getting the proper counsel and everything. It’s more about [raising] awareness of where this is going and what it can lead to.”
The NFL responded that it has long made player safety a priority and continues to do so.
“Any allegation that the NFL intentionally sought to mislead players has no merit,” the league said in a statement to The Associated Press on Thursday. “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.”
The lawsuit is one of about six suits filed against the NFL in recent months by past players who say the league did not do enough to protect them from concussions, the AP reported.
Lewis, 32, also played for the Cleveland Browns. His 10-year career ended in 2009. Levens, who is 41, also was a running back, playing 11 seasons until his career ended in 2003. Kuykendall, a former linebacker who is 58, played in the NFL between 1974 and 1985. And Stewart, 38, was a safety for the Detroit Lions for five seasons ending in 2000.
The Ravens refused to comment, citing privacy laws and the fact that the team is not named in the suit.
The men claim a range of medical problems stemming from their playing days, including memory loss, headaches and sleeplessness.
The players are seeking a jury trial and unspecified damages.
“I think it is,” Lewis said when asked if more players were aware of the dangers of head injuries now. “ It’s a start. I’m just kind of trying to build on it. Awareness is the key, and that’s what we’re doing.”
Sun reporters Edward Lee and Jeff Zrebiec contributed to this article.