Hall of Fame quarterback Dan Marino, who played 17 seasons for the Miami Dolphins, has added his name to the list of former NFL players suing the league over its handling of concussions. Marino sued the NFL in federal court last week along with 14 other players, the Los Angeles Times’ Nathan Fenno reported Monday:
The 18-page complaint alleges the NFL concealed information about football-related brain injuries and misled players, claims that are similar to those made in more than 300 related lawsuits. The NFL has repeatedly denied such claims.
No specific symptoms are alleged for Marino, selected to nine Pro Bowl games when he played from 1983 to 1999. Boilerplate language is used in Marino’s short-form complaint. One is submitted for each plaintiff.
Marino’s suit is important for a couple major reasons. Though he’s the 41st Hall of Famer among the nearly 5,000 players suing the NFL, he will instantly become the most prominent face in the concussion lawsuits. Marino is one of the greatest quarterbacks in NFL history — he held or shared most of the game’s most notable passing records when he retired after the 1999 season — and he has maintained a public role since, working as an in-studio analyst for CBS’ The NFL Today since 2002. Marino’s work on that show could explain the timing of the suit, which comes just months after the network announced that he wouldn’t return for the 2014–2015 season.
Marino’s prominence could further mainstream the NFL’s battle with former players and concussions. The issue now has a face that virtually every NFL fan will recognize, and it comes at a time when the nationwide discussion about head injuries in sports has reached youth leagues, other sporting organizations, and the White House.
And while Marino did not have high-profile bouts with concussions like contemporaries Steve Young and Troy Aikman, he still provides evidence of how the NFL and team doctors looked the other way for years. Marino notably returned to a September 1992 game against the Seattle Seahawks after suffering a concussion. “When he came out of the game in the fourth quarter,” then-Dolphins head coach Don Shula said at the time, “he wasn’t sure where he was.” Marino received clearance from team doctors to return to the game anyway, according to the Associated Press story from the time, and led the Dolphins to a 19–17 victory.
At the same time, Marino’s claim comes amid uncertainty for the major concussion litigation. The NFL and more than 4,000 former players reached a preliminary $765 million settlement in August, but a federal judge has rejected the settlement until she is more certain that the deal contains enough money to cover all potential claims. The settlement contains $675 million to compensate former players, but ESPN has reported that more than $1 billion could be needed to pay out all claims based on current diagnosis and injury records.
A source tells the Sun-Sentinel that Marino is, as of Tuesday, considering withdrawing his name from the lawsuit. “It was never Marino’s intention to initiate litigation in this case, but to ensure that in the event he had adverse health consequences down the road, he would be covered with health benefits. They are working to correct the error,” the unnamed source told the Sun-Sentinel. The paper reported that Marino could withdraw his name as soon as Tuesday afternoon.