Gale Sayers denies he's suing NFL, Riddell over head injuries

Gale Sayers says he did not sign any papers involving a lawsuit filed against the NFL and Riddell, the helmetmaker, over head injuries. Gale Sayers played for the Chicago Bears from 1965 to 1972.

(AP Photo/Larry Stoddard, File)
In this Nov. 27, 1967 photo, Green Bay Packers Dave Robinson (89) chases Chicago Bears' Gale Sayers (40) during an NFL football game in Chicago. Sayers is suing the NFL and Riddell, the helmet maker, for failing to protect him from head injuries.

Hall of Fame running back Gale Sayers denied that he is suing the National Football League and helmet maker Riddell.

Gale Sayers told the Chicago Tribune on Saturday that he did not consent to a lawsuit filed on his behalf Friday in U.S. District Court in Chicago that alleges the NFL was negligent in handling his repeated head injuries.

A lawsuit was filed Friday in U.S. District Court in Chicago, claiming that Sayers, who played for the Chicago Bears from 1965 to 1972, suffers headaches, occasional short-term memory loss and other cognitive deficits. Court documents say  the affliction is caused by chronic traumatic encephalopathy.

The Chicago Tribune reported that the "Sayers’ lawsuit claims fraudulent misrepresentation by the NFL, saying that the NFL didn’t do enough to warn Sayers that playing through concussions could cause permanent brain damage."

But on Saturday Sayers told the Tribune that he did not agree to sue the NFL.

"I had about one half of a concussion in all of the years that I played," said Sayers, whose seven-year career ended prematurely in 1971 because of severe knee injuries. "I didn't say any of the things he said in the paper."

A spokesman for the NFL did not immediately return a call seeking comment. Rosemont, Ill.-based Riddell declined to comment.

As reported last month, in a settlement with the players association, the NFL agreed to pay $765 million dollars nearly all going to any former players — not just those who went to court — with dementia or other concussion-related health problems, even if the cause was not the very on-field violence that fueled professional football's rise in popularity and profit.

The deal stipulates that it is not to be considered an admission of liability by the NFL.

That settlement, unprecedented in sports, came after more than a year of discussions between the sides and two months of court-ordered mediation. Subject to approval by a federal judge, it came exactly a week before the first game of the 2013 season, removing a major legal and financial threat hanging over the sport.

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