ATLANTA — The four former NFL players who sued the league on Monday in a Georgia state court could lead a wave of new lawsuits that cite the Saints' bounty system as evidence that pro football didn't properly protect its players from concussions.
Legal experts and trial attorneys say they expect more complaints against the NFL to point to the Saints' scandal after the ex-players filed suit contending the bounty system was another example that the league "explicitly relied on violence" and neglected to educate players on the dangers of concussions.
The NFL's investigation found that former Saints defensive coordinator Gregg Williams offered thousands of dollars in cash payouts for violent hits over the past three seasons, including the team's Super Bowl run. The players named in the suit don't claim to be victims of the scheme but say it indicates a culture that has left them and other ex-players with debilitating conditions.
Coach Sean Payton was suspended for a year and Williams (now with the Rams) was suspended indefinitely for the scandal. Others banned were assistant and interim coach Joe Vitt (six games) and general manager Mickey Loomis (eight games) and the team was fined $500,000 and stripped of two second-round draft picks.
"Although the NFL has now punished Williams and the Saints, for almost its entire history the NFL glorified violent hits," the complaint said. "It encouraged its players to think of themselves as gladiators. But … the NFL failed to educate its players about the consequences of such a win-at-all costs mentality."
NFL spokesman Brian McCarthy said any allegation that the league intentionally sought to mislead players is without merit.
The suit was filed on behalf of former players Myron Guyton, Lomas Brown, Jessie Small and Willie Whitehead.
Meanwhile, NFL Network reported that Saints linebacker Jonathan Vilma expects to be suspended at least two and up to eight games. Vilma, a former college star at Miami, was the only player named in the league's report about the bounty system.
Also, quarterback Drew Brees was in New York to join players' union officials at NFL offices to discuss the bounties. According to NFL Network, Brees said: "We didn't get any meaningful evidence, or any meaningful truth or facts" regarding proof of the bounty program.
BRONCOS: On the day Peyton Manning reported for the start of the team's offseason conditioning program, one of his former Colts receivers, Brandon Stokley, signed for one year to rejoin Manning in Denver.
CARDINALS: Quarterback Kevin Kolb says he has no hard feelings toward the team for pursuing Manning, but said he wishes the team had communicated with him better about it. "I'd just rather hear it from him than the ticker," Kolb said of coach Ken Whisenhunt. "He agreed. That's how relationships grow and that's where we're heading."
GIANTS: Former Patriots cornerback Antwaun Molden signed.
JAGUARS: Defensive tackle Terrance Knighton will miss at least three months of the team's offseason program after eye surgery. He was hurt April 8 when he was hit with a bottle at a Jacksonville nightclub.
JETS: Linebacker Aaron Maybin signed his one-year restricted free agent tender.
REDSKINS: Linebacker London Fletcher, who has played 224 straight games, re-signed.
STEELERS: Backup quarterback Charlie Batch re-signed to a one-year contract for his 15th season.
JURISPRUDENCE: Jury selection started in the trial of former Bengals and Bucs linebacker Nate Webster, who faces sex-related charges involving the teenage daughter of a former Cincinnati assistant. Ravens linebacker Ray Lewis was subpoenaed as a defense witness during the trial in Cincinnati.
OBITUARY: Rich Saul, who played center for the Rams for 12 years and made six Pro Bowls, died Sunday of complications from leukemia at his home in Newport Beach, Calif. He was 64.