The NFL is facing yet another lawsuit – not for concussions, but for drugs.
A group of retired players is claiming that the league obtained and administered pain killers without prescriptions and failed to warn players about side effects – all as a means to expedite players’ return from injury and generate as much profit as possible.
More than 500 players are a part of the lawsuit, including former 49ers Pro Bowl center Jeremy Newberry, who is one of eight plaintiffs in the lawsuit.
During his playing days, Newberry claims that he was taking pain killers, anti-inflammatory medications and sleeping pills year-round. By his mid-30s, he had Stage 3 kidney failure.
“They would give it to you daily and give it to you all the time,” Newberry said on Ferrall on the Bench. “I never really got to the point where I was taking them outside of playing. I was playing some seasons where I was on crutches and in a boot, and I hobble into the facilities and they’re shooting me up and giving (me) a handful of painkillers, giving me a shot of Toradol, (giving) me some Novocaine. I played a whole season without practicing a down.”
Newberry, 38, played for the 49ers from 1998-2006 and had one-year stints with the Raiders (2007) and Chargers (2008). He never became addicted to the pain killers, but he took way too many – oftentimes, he said, illegally.
“You got teams’ trainers that aren’t doctors who are administering 90 percent of these medications – these painkillers, these anti-inflammatories, these other pills that these trainers are giving you,” Newberry said. “The doctors are basically writing huge prescriptions to these trainers, and they’re handing them out at will. That’s the part that’s alarming. These team trainers – none of them are doctors, and they’re the ones handing out prescriptions.”
“They would say, ‘We’ll get you back (for) next week, and we’ll give you something to deal with the pain.’”
The other plaintiffs in the lawsuit include three members of the 1985 Bears – Richard Dent, Jim McMahon and Keith Van Horne. Other plaintiffs include Roy Green, Ron Stone, Ron Pritchard and J.D. Hill.
Newberry believes the lawsuit, which already includes more than 500 former players, will eventually be in the thousands.
“They’ll all tell the exact same story,” Newberry said. “It’s going to be hard for (the NFL) to discredit what really happened when you’ve got (several thousand players) that will be a part of this lawsuit and they’re all saying the exact same thing.”
There are, of course, those who are rolling their eyes. They say Newberry and the others are simply seeking a pay day from the NFL, especially after the $765-million concussion settlement. Newberry, who was not part of the concussion suit, said that could not be further from the truth.
“I got two very successful businesses. I made a lot of money playing football,” he said. “If I get a nickel out of this thing, I’d be okay.”
Indeed, something else is motivating Newberry.
“If there’s another young man in my same situation in his mid-30s who’s got kidney failure and on the verge of needing dialysis and a kidney transplant because I kept my mouth shut and let the NFL continue to do what they’re doing to these players, then shame on me,” he said. “I’m just guilty as any of them.”