Mixed message from former players?
Former players from all 32 franchises will announce second- and third-round picks Friday night from the Radio City Music Hall stage at the NFL Draft.
The league may ultimately be seeing some of those retirees again in the courtroom.
Nine of the team representatives -- Larry Centers (Arizona), Tony Casillas (Dallas), Dick Schafrath (Cleveland), Randy Gradishar (Denver), Dave Robinson (Green Bay), Gary Barbaro (Kansas City), Joey Browner (Minnesota), Jeremiah Trotter (Philadelphia) and Isaiah Kacyvenski (Seattle) – are among more than 4,100 former players suing the NFL for head injuries allegedly suffered during their playing days.
Earlier this month, a federal judge heard arguments on whether the class-action lawsuit should be heard in court or litigated through arbitration. A ruling isn’t expected until later this year.
At stake are potentially billions of dollars in damage claims.
By participating in draft proceedings, those nine litigants are welcoming college players into a league they claim was negligent in diagnosing concussions and head trauma during their own playing days.
As potential links between head trauma and post-NFL behavioral problems began drawing mainstream attention in recent years, the NFL has greatly improved detection and treatment protocols as well as on-field rules designed to lessen helmet-to-helmet impact. The league also has launched safety initiatives aimed at youth football players.
NFL spokesman Greg Aiello told FOXSports.com in an email that teams select their own draft-day representatives to read the names of picks.
“The concussion litigation is a separate matter and not relevant to our celebration of former players at the draft,” Aiello said.
Another team draft-day representative is former New Orleans safety Steve Gleason, who is suffering from ALS (amyotrophic lateral sclerosis). Research is being conducted to determine whether there is a definitive link between that fatal neurological disease and head trauma suffered from playing football.
Gleason told USA Today in January that he personally wasn’t sure if there is a connection but did say that “current research shows NFL players are more likely to have certain brain diseases.”