Former Bucs defensive tackle turned lawyer Culpepper is lead plaintiff in concussion suit vs. NFL
Brad Culpepper was a blocker on a kickoff return team for the Minnesota Vikings in 1993 when he violently collided with a 6-foot-3, 250-pound defender from the San Diego Chargers whose sole job was to bust the three-man wedge.
Both men went to the ground. Culpepper says his facemask was bent and he was knocked unconscious for 15 seconds, the result of a concussion.
“I couldn’t remember the plays, couldn’t remember really anything,’’ Culpepper said. “After the game, they got me to the hospital. I stayed the night, was released the next morning, worked out in the weight room the next morning and two days later was on the field for practice and played the next weekend.
“I don’t think that’s what the protocol is now. I think that’s just an example of something that was probably incorrectly dealt with.’’
Culpepper, now a prominent Tampa personal injury attorney who played nine seasons for the Vikings, Bucs and Bears, is the lead plaintiff in a concussion lawsuit with 25 other players against the NFL filed by the Locks Law Firm.
Charley Hannah, who played 12 seasons with the Raiders and Bucs, is a single plaintiff in a second lawsuit filed by Locks. Both lawsuits were filed in the Eastern District of Pennsylvania and are captioned Brad Culpepper et al v. NFL and Charles Hannah v. NFL.
Culpepper, 43, would not disclose what, if any health problem, may have resulted from concussions suffered during his career.
“Clearly, I can’t talk about what my issues would be or not be,’’ Culpepper said. “It’s a matter of what knowledge the NFL had and maybe knowledge they should’ve had and the protocol in which they used to help the players when a head injury was diagnosed.’’
Culpepper noted that the NFL has since enacted rules changes to prevent the kind of injury he sustained during that play in Minnesota. The kickoff has been moved up to the 35-yard line, limiting the number of returns. Wedge blocking is illegal. And the league has a concussion protocol that must be followed before players can return to the field.
Culpepper said like many players in the ‘90’s, he was unaware of the long-term effect of concussions.
“Did I know it’s going to potentially cause life-ending problems or dementia? Not like I do now,’’ Culpepper said. “Would that have changed how I feel about playing? I don’t know, I can’t put myself in that situation. Quite frankly, it probably would not have. But it’s like a cigarette. You know they’re bad for you, there’s warning labels all over the cigarettes. Yet, you may choose to do it.
“There were no warnings. It wasn’t like they sat a player down and said, “Look, if you get a concussion or you get numerous concussions, this could scramble your brain for good.’’
There are more than 1,800 players named in 70 complaints against the NFL. Similar to the other lawsuits filed by Gene Locks, the one involving Culpepper asserts counts of fraud, conspiracy to defraud, fraudulent misrepresentation, negligent misrepresentation, negligence, loss of consortium and seeking declaratory relief and medical monitoring.