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Football Players Tell Judge Their Case Against NFL Is Just — And Urgent

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(Left to right: Lisa McHale, widow of Eagles' guard Tom McHale; Kevin Turner, former Eagles' fullback; Mary Ann Easterling, widow of Atlanta Falcons safety Ray Easterling; Dorsey Levens, former Eagles' running back; Bill Bergey, former Eagles' linebacker.  Credit: Pat Loeb)

(Left to right: Lisa McHale, widow of Eagles’ guard Tom McHale; Kevin Turner, former Eagles’ fullback; Mary Ann Easterling, widow of Atlanta Falcons safety Ray Easterling; Dorsey Levens, former Eagles’ running back; Bill Bergey, former Eagles’ linebacker. Credit: Pat Loeb)

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By Mike DeNardo and Pat Loeb

PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — After hearing arguments this morning in federal court in Philadelphia, a judge is deciding whether a class-action suit alleging the NFL hid information over concussion-related injuries can go forward.

Some players are suffering from dementia or depression, and fault the league for rushing them back on the field.

About 4,200 former players are seeking medical monitoring and damages from the NFL, claiming the league hid information about head injuries.

In the courtroom, NFL attorney Paul Clement argued the issue is a workplace issue that belongs in labor arbitration, not in federal court.

“This case is at bottom a case about workplace safety, in an industry in which issues of workplace safety were a recurring subject of collective barganing,” Clement told Judge Anita Brody.

But players’ attorney David Frederick accused the NFL of fraud and spreading misinformation about the risks of head injuries.

“When the NFL began to publicly monetize and glorify violence on the field, it breached its duty of due care beacuse it was attempting to speak out of both sides of its mouth,” he said.

Judge Brody will decide, but any decision she makes is likely to be appealed.

Following the hearing, a group of plaintiffs in the case spoke with reporters.

Three former players and the widows of three other players say they’re hopeful the case will move forward quickly.

Former Eagles’ running back Dorsey Levens got hit a lot when he played from 1994 to 2004, but he remembers in particular one game at the Vet, against the Cowboys.

“Roy Williams was a safety,” Levens (second from right in photo) recalled today.  “Young guy, supposed to be a big hitter.  And I wanted to see how much of a big hitter he was.  And…. he was.   He definitely was.  But I remember I couldn’t get up.  When I got up, my equilibrium was all off.  I felt like I was going to fall, so I just stayed down and they came and got me.”

They got him and sent him back into the game.

That was the common practice, despite growing evidence that those hits could cause long-term problems.

Levens says he has early signs of dementia.  His former teammate, Kevin Turner (second from left), has ALS that he believes is tied to his football career.

Turner says he’s hoping for quick resolution to the case.

“A lot of us don’t have ten years to find out what the decision is,” Turner said today.

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