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August 29, 2013

Judge: NFL, players to settle concussion lawsuits

(Continued)

The lawyers were due to report back to her Tuesday, but Brody instead announced in court files Thursday that the case had settled.

In recent years, a string of former NFL players and other concussed athletes have been diagnosed after their deaths with chronic traumatic encephalopathy, or CTE. Those ex-players included Seau and lead plaintiff Ray Easterling, who filed the first suit in Philadelphia in August 2011 but later committed suicide.

About one-third of the league's 12,000 former players have joined the litigation since 2011. They include a few hundred "gap" players, who played during years when there was no labor contract in place, and were therefore considered likely to win the right to sue.

The timing of the settlement allowed the NFL to drop the issue from the national conversation before the start of the new season.

All 32 clubs were scheduled to play their final exhibition games Thursday night, in preparation for the start of the regular season next week. The first real game is next Thursday, with the reigning Super Bowl champion Baltimore Ravens playing at the Denver Broncos.

Concussions — and the former players' lawsuits — had become a main theme of recent NFL seasons, with players, coaches and league officials all forced to address the topic repeatedly, especially as new plaintiffs came forward on nearly a weekly basis. It was the sort of public relations distraction the league has become skilled at avoiding — and the easiest way to set this topic aside, of course, was to have the court cases resolved.

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