The family of Leon Gray, a former NFL offensive lineman who died at age 49 in 2001, has filed a wrongful death lawsuit against the league.
Nathan Fenno of the Washington Times reported the news via Twitter:
After playing college football at Jackson State, Gray was selected in the third round of the 1973 NFL draft by the Miami Dolphins, but he never played for the franchise.
He went on to have a successful career playing for the New England Patriots, Houston Oilers and New Orleans Saints. His career, which spanned 11 seasons, was highlighted by three straight first-team All-Pro selections from 1978 to 1980.
The New York Times reported in 2001 that police believed his death was due to natural causes:
Leon Gray, who teamed with John Hannah to give the New England Patriots a formidable blocking duo in the 1970's, was found dead in his apartment on Sunday. He was 49.
The police said that Gray appeared to have died of natural causes.
Gray, who was also selected to four Pro Bowls during his accomplished career, played his final season with the Saints in 1983.
Fenno provided some statistics about the lawsuit and the troublesome situation the NFL is facing involving the health of former stars.
One of the most noteworthy items is the vast amount of players that are listed as concussion plaintiffs against the league:
Among those is a sizable group of deceased former players:
At least 74 deceased former players, including five Hall of Famers, are involved in #NFL concussion litigation.— Nathan Fenno (@nathanfenno) July 18, 2013
Finally, Fenno points out that the average age of the deceased plaintiffs is just under 63. The average life expectancy in the United States is nearly 79 years, according to WorldBank.org:
Average age of those deceased players in concussion litigation is 62.6 years, ranging from 31 to 92. #NFL— Nathan Fenno (@nathanfenno) July 18, 2013
The stats, both in terms of the large number of plaintiffs involved and the dip in life expectancy, illustrate the challenge facing the NFL moving forward. The issue continues to draw attention and must be dealt with by the league. It can't be ignored.
The lawsuit filed by Gray's family is the latest reminder of the problem.