Judge: NFL, players to settle concussion lawsuits

PHILADELPHIA (AP) — The NFL and more than

4,500 former players want to resolve concussion-related lawsuits with a

$765 million

settlement that would fund medical exams, concussion-related

compensation and medical research, a federal judge said Thursday.

The plaintiffs include at least 10 members

of the Pro Football Hall of Fame, including former Dallas Cowboys

running back

Tony Dorsett. They also include Super Bowl-winning quarterback Jim

McMahon and the family of Pro Bowl linebacker Junior Seau,

who committed suicide last year.

Many former players with neurological conditions believe their problems stem from on-field concussions. The lawsuits accused

the league of hiding known risks of concussions for decades to return players to games and protect its image.

The NFL has denied any wrongdoing and has insisted that safety has always been a top priority.

Senior U.S. District Judge Anita Brody in Philadelphia announced the proposed settlement Thursday after months of court-ordered

mediation. She still must approve it at a later date.

The settlement likely means the NFL won't

have to disclose internal files about what it knew, when, about

concussion-linked

brain problems. Lawyers had been eager to learn, for instance,

about the workings of the league's Mild Traumatic Brain Injury

Committee, which was led for more than a decade by a

rheumatologist.

In court arguments in April, NFL lawyer Paul

Clement asked Brody to dismiss the lawsuits and send them to

arbitration under

terms of the players' contract. He said that individual teams bear

the chief responsibility for health and safety under the

collective bargaining agreement, along with the players' union and

the players themselves.

Players lawyer David Frederick accused the

league of concealing studies linking concussions to neurological

problems for decades.

Brody had initially planned to rule in July, but then delayed her ruling and ordered the two sides to meet to decide which

plaintiffs, if any, had the right to sue. She also issued a gag order, so it has been unclear in recent weeks whether any

progress was being made.

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.