Dan Marino, the Hall of Fame quarterback for the Miami Dolphins and one of the NFL's highest-profile alums, has joined the ranks of former players suing the league over concussion-related injuries.
In court filings late last week, Marino, 52, claimed that league officials had long been aware of the long-term effects of repeated hits to the head but chose to ignore those warnings and put players' health at risk.
But unlike some of the more than 5,000 ex-players who have filed suit in federal court in Philadelphia, Marino did not specify any explicit condition with which he has struggled in his post-football career.
Marino and his lawyer, Sol Weiss, one of the attorneys who last year negotiated a proposed $765 million settlement with the league, could not be reached for comment Monday.
But should he accept the deal, according to other lawyers involved in the case, Marino's involvement could go a long way toward selling other former players on the plan, which has come under increasing scrutiny since a judge declined to grant it preliminary approval earlier this year.
In the lawsuit, the former players have alleged that NFL officials hid the dangers or repeated hits to the head while mythologizing the violence of their sport.
Their ranks include players such as Kevin Turner, an Eagles fullback from 1995-99 who is now battling ALS and is one of the faces of the class-action suit, and former Dallas Cowboys running back and Hall of Famer Tony Dorsett, who confirmed last year that he had been diagnosed with chronic traumatic encephalopathy, a degenerative brain disorder.
But by any yardstick, Marino, considered in some circles to be among the best quarterbacks in NFL history, would be one of the highest-profile former players to join the suit to date.
A Pittsburgh native, Marino played for the Dolphins from 1983-99 and holds many league records that still stand today. After his football career, he joined CBS Sports as a commentator.
He was joined last week by 14 new plaintiffs including former New England Patriots defensive tackle Richard Bishop and the estate of former Eagle Floyd Peters.
Under the terms of the settlement proposal unveiled in January, the league would set aside $675 million to be paid directly to players with symptoms of long-term brain injury. Payouts would be determined on a sliding scale depending on age, the number of seasons played and whether injuries after retirement might have contributed to their cognitive disorders.
Another $75 million would go toward testing on those who have not developed neurological symptoms, and an additional $10 million would be invested in research and education.
But ever since U.S. District Judge Anita Brody expressed concern earlier this year that the money might not be enough to cover a potential 20,000 eligible plaintiffs, lawyers for several former players have criticized the settlement proposal.
They argue that the plan benefits the most severely impaired players at the expense of others.