TAMPA — Brad Culpepper was blocking on a kickoff return for the Vikings on Nov. 7, 1993, when he collided with a 6-foot-3, 250-pound Charger whose job was to bust the three-man wedge.
Both fell, Culpepper said, his face mask was bent, and he was unconscious for 15 seconds, the result of a concussion.
"I couldn't remember the plays, couldn't remember really anything," Culpepper, about 6-1, 275 pounds at the time, said Wednesday. "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 think that's an example of something that was probably incorrectly dealt with."
Culpepper, a tackle (1992-2000) with the Vikings, Bucs and Bears, is the lead plaintiff in a concussion lawsuit with 25 other players against the NFL filed Monday by the Locks Law Firm.
Charley Hannah, a lineman (1977-88) with the Bucs and Raiders, is a single plaintiff in another lawsuit filed by Locks, a personal injury firm with offices in Philadelphia, New York and Cherry Hill, N.J. (a suburb of Philadelphia). Culpepper, 43, would not disclose his medical issues resulting from concussions.
"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 said.
Other former players in the lawsuit, filed in Pennsylvania, include Jim Arnold, a punter for three teams (1983-94); J.C. Pearson, a defensive back for two teams (1986-93); Len St. Jean, a guard for the Patriots (1964-73); and Joe Tafoya, a defensive end for three teams (2001-07).
In all, there are 70 lawsuits against the league involving about 1,800 former players.
Culpepper, now a personal injury attorney in Tampa, noted the NFL has since enacted rules to prevent concussions, including moving kickoffs up 5 yards to the 35 and eliminating wedge blocking. In addition, there is a protocol for players returning after sustaining a concussion.
The former Florida standout said like many players in the 1990s, 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, I 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.' "