Former Pro Bowl defender Marcellus Wiley added his name to a lawsuit accusing NFL teams of illegally dispensing powerful narcotics and other drugs to keep players on the field without regard for their long-term health.
“The first thing people ask is, knowing what happened, would you do it again?” said Wiley, currently an ESPN analyst. “No. No I wouldn’t.”
The lawsuit was originally filed May 20 in U.S. District Court in northern California and amended Wednesday to add 250 more players, bringing the total to 750 plaintiffs. Wiley, who played in Buffalo, San Diego, Dallas and Jacksonville from 1997 to 2006, is the ninth player identified by name, joining former Chicago Bears players Jim McMahon, Richard Dent and Keith Van Horne, ex-center Jeremy Newberry and others.
The lawsuit, which is seeking class certification, covers the years 1968-2008. It contends team physicians and trainers across the NFL routinely — and often illegally — provided powerful narcotics and other controlled substances on game days to mask the pain.
Among them were the painkillers Percodan, Percocet and Vicodin, anti-inflammatories such as Toradol, and sleep aids such as Ambien. Lead attorney Steven Silverman said some teams filled out prescriptions in players’ names without their knowledge or consent. He said those drugs were then “handed out like candy at Halloween” and often combined in “cocktails.”
NFL spokesman Brian McCarthy said the league had no comment.
The former players have reported a range of debilitating effects, from chronic muscle and bone ailments to permanent nerve and organ damage to addiction. The players contend those health problems came from drug use, but many of the conditions aren’t tied to the use of painkillers.
Six of the plaintiffs in the lawsuit, including McMahon and Van Horne, were also parties to the concussion-related class-action lawsuit filed against the NFL less than a year ago. The NFL agreed to pay $765 million to settle that case — without acknowledging it concealed the risks of concussions from former players. A federal judge has yet to approve the settlement, expressing concern the amount is too small.