Brain-injury panel is labeled a 'sham' by players' lawyer

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Lisa McHale wishes her husband had lived long enough to learn more about the links between concussions and long-term brain injuries.

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Her husband Tom, an All-Ivy athlete who played in 87 NFL games from 1987 to 1995, died of an overdose in 2008 after battling depression and a painkiller addiction.

An autopsy later showed he suffered from traumatic brain injuries.

“To know it wasn’t his fault, that there was something going on neurologically, it helps,” McHale said in Philadelphia on Tuesday, where lawyers for the NFL and for more than 4,200 former players argued over whether the complaints belong in federal court or, as the NFL believes, in arbitration.

Players’ lawyer David Frederick argued that the NFL “glorified” violence and profited from damaging hits to the head.

Frederick also accused the league of concealing the emerging science linking concussions to neurological problems for decades, even after the NFL created a Mild Traumatic Brain Injury committee in 1994. The panel was led by a rheumatologist.

“It set up a sham committee designed to get information about neurological risks, but in fact spread misinformation,” Frederick argued at the pivotal federal hearing to determine if the complaints will remain in federal court.

U.S. District Judge Anita Brody’s decision could be worth billions to either side.

About one-third of the league’s 12,000 former players have joined the litigation.

Some are battling dementia, depression or Alzheimer’s disease, and fault the league for rushing them back on the field after concussions. Others are worried about future problems and want their health monitored.

A handful, including popular Pro Bowler Junior Seau, have committed suicide.

NFL lawyer Paul Clement insisted that teams bear the chief responsibility for health and safety under the players’ collective bargaining agreement, along with the players and their union.

LIONS: Officially signed kicker David Akers on Tuesday and bid farewell to Jason Hanson.

Akers and the Lions agreed to a deal last week, a day after Hanson announced his retirement. Akers was released in March by the San Francisco 49ers after he followed up a record-breaking season with shaky results.

RAIDERS: Signed cornerback Mike Jenkins to a free-agent contract.

Jenkins spent the past five seasons with the Dallas Cowboys. He had five interceptions and made the Pro Bowl in 2009 but has just two interceptions the past three seasons.

JETS: Are replacing departed safety LaRon Landry with his brother.

Dawan Landry signed with the team, nearly a month after his younger brother left New York to sign with the Indianapolis Colts as a free agent. Dawan Landry played the past two seasons with Jacksonville before being released in March.

STEELERS: Pittsburgh coach Mike Tomlin has been named to the NFL’s competition committee.

Tomlin will replace former Arizona Cardinals coach Ken Whisenhunt. Tomlin had worked on the coaches subcommittee of the competition committee since 2009.

The nine-man committee – which is co-chaired by Atlanta Falcons President Rich McKay and St. Louis Rams coach Jeff Fisher – recommends rules and policy changes to the NFL.

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