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Dan Marino’s concussion-related lawsuit against the NFL is ending.
Marino issued a statement Tuesday saying he never intended to be among 15 ex-players added to a suit filed in U.S. District Court in Philadelphia that claims the league was negligent and careless in its treatment of head trauma.
Marino’s statement, sent to Sports Illustrated’s Peter King, confirmed a report by the South Florida Sun Sentinel that Marino, 52, wanted his name promptly removed. Marino said contrary to the suit, he is not suffering from head injuries from his 17 years as the Dolphins’ quarterback.
“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,” Marino said. “In so doing I did not realize I would be automatically listed as a plaintiff in a lawsuit against the NFL.”
The abrupt change conjures memories of 2004, when Marino was Dolphins senior vice president of football operations for 22 days before deciding it wasn’t for him. Marino’s involvement in this suit reached Day 5 on Tuesday.
It remains unclear how Marino’s involvement in the suit would have affected his chances of landing a front-office job with the Dolphins. Or if his pursuit of such a role caused him to pull out of the suit so quickly.
Former Dolphins players O.J. McDuffie and Keith Sims have been plaintiffs in injury suits and both have broadcast roles with the club, but Marino’s potential role might be higher profile.
Stuart Ratzan, a Miami attorney who represents McDuffie in his pending case against team doctor John Uribe, said Marino dropping out shouldn’t damage the plaintiffs’ case.
“For a brief moment, I think it could hurt on purely a public-relations level,” Ratzan said. But from a legal standpoint, “That will be decided by a jury, on its merits, not on whether Dan Marino was once a plaintiff,” Ratzan added.
Marino’s history with concussions was limited, especially compared to former San Francisco quarterback Steve Young, whose head trauma forced him to retire. Young and Marino entered the Hall of Fame in 2005. Young is an active NFL broadcaster, as is former Dallas QB Troy Aikman, another Hall of Famer. Aikman also has a history of concussions but like Young has not sued the league. Marino was dropped from CBS’ pre-game show following the 2013 season.
Former quarterback Boomer Esiason said there’s “a new cottage industry” consisting of lawyers trying to coax former players into suing the NFL.
“There is a very large incentive for lawyers to try to get guys like Dan or myself to get involved, to try to use our name,” Esiason said on his CBS Radio show.
Defense lawyers likely would have called attention to an interview Marino gave to Yahoo.com in 2013.
“When I went out there to play I knew there was a chance I could get a concussion or I could break a leg or get a knee injury,” Marino said. “I really do believe they’re protecting the players as much as they can right now.”
The best-documented case of Marino suffering a concussion occurred in September 1992, when he threw a touchdown pass to Fred Banks with 2:15 left in Seattle. After the game, Marino could not recall the play or that the Dolphins had won.
Later that season, Marino outlined the five greatest hits he had absorbed, including the time in 1983 when the New York Jets’ Joe Klecko “rung my bell pretty good” on a sack. Marino also cited a 1989 game against Indianapolis when he was shaken up and threw for only 150 yards, plus a 1985 game against New England in which Andre Tippett hit him underneath the chin, causing Marino to bite his tongue.
Priding himself as an ironman, Marino started 95 consecutive games beginning in 1987, which is fourth on the club’s all-time list. In 1992, he said the streak reassured teammates they can count on him and may have made them play harder for him.
Columnist Mike Freeman had written for Bleacher Report on Tuesday that Marino entering the suit was a game-changer. Freeman wrote that the public no longer could assume plaintiffs were limited to “just a bunch of bitter old men” or broke former players.
“There is now an increased level of credibility,” Freeman had written. “Marino’s name won’t be so easy for the skeptics to dismiss. In effect, he has armored the plaintiffs in this case better than they could have ever dreamed.”
That armor is no more.