Hall of Fame QB Dan Marino made headlines this week by first announcing he was joining -- and then backing out of -- a lawsuit that claims the NFL long knew about the links between concussions and long-term health problems but misled players and did nothing about it.
Less than 24 hours after joining the suit, Marino issued the following statement:
"Within the last year I authorized a claim to be filed on my behalf just in case I needed future medical coverage to protect me and my family in the event I later suffered from the effects of head trauma. In so doing I did not realize I would be automatically listed as a plaintiff in a lawsuit against the NFL."I have made the decision it is not necessary for me to be part of any claims or this lawsuit and therefore I am withdrawing as a plaintiff effective immediately. I sympathetic to other players who are seeking relief who may have suffered head injuries. I also disclaim any references in the form complaint of current head injuries."
There are more than 300 active lawsuits against the league, comprised of more than 5,000 former players, according to Yahoo Sports. Marino was named in an 18-page complaint that charged the NFL with concealing and withholding information about football-related brain injuries, claims that the NFL has repeatedly denied.
In January, the NFL and at least 4,500 players proposed a $765 million settlement but a federal judge declined to approve it, saying it wasn't enough to cover an estimated 20,000 former players over the settlement's 65-year lifespan.
In an interview with The Daily Ticker last June, Marino seemed to distance himself from the lawsuits and arguably exonerated the league.
"It's a violent game; it's a physical game," he said. "Players know what their risk are. When I went out there to play, I knew there was a chance I could get a concussion. I could break a leg or have a knee injury. I really do believe they're protecting the players as much as they can right now.”
That's a "powerful quote [because] it puts the onus on the players," says Eric Adelson of Yahoo Sports. "It's a huge victory for the league to say 'hey it's not our fault' and here's this Hall of Famer player who agrees -- and then he's the face of movement against the NFL."
In part because of those past statements, it was a "huge surprise when [Marino's] name became attached because he automatically became the name and face behind concussion litigation," he continues. "That movement needs a face like Dan Marino."
But Marino's notoriety as a former star player, analyst (most recently for CBS) and pitchman for products such as NutriSystem and Papa John's may have made his role as the "face" of the lawsuit untenable.
"The earthquake of his name being attached [to the suit] surprised everybody," Adelson says. "I think he realized he would be tied very closely with concussion litigation and that affected his future in the league."
On some level, all former players face a similar conundrum: "The bottom line is these players aren't sure what's going to happen to them so they want to protect themselves in case they have health issues," Adleson continues. "But they also want to protect themselves in case they have opportunities to be affiliated with the NFL in a more positive way. It's a very hard decision and all these players are facing it."
One downside of Marino's flip-flop this week is the "hard questions" now being asked about him and not the NFL and its response to the lawsuits, Adelson adds. "But this helps awareness. Talking about concussions is a good thing for football, parents and fans."