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Mark Brunell declares bankruptcy

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For the second time in less than three years, a former NFL starting quarterback has sought protection not from five offensive linemen, but from the eleventh chapter of the U.S. bankruptcy laws.

The last time around, it was Mike Vick. This time, it’s Mark Brunell.

Abel Harding of the Florida Times-Union reports that Brunell plans to make the filing today, despite earning $52 million during his career.

The tipping point seems to be multiple lawsuits resulting from failed business loans for which Brunell and others co-signed. The fact, however, that the total liability under those claims falls in the neighborhood of $3.3 million suggests that Brunell hasn’t squirreled away much, if any, of the money he made while playing. To qualify for bankruptcy protection, assets can’t exceed debts. Thus, Brunell necessarily has less money than he owes.

The filing will trigger an automatic stay of all pending litigation. Then, the process converts into an effort to identify Brunell’s non-exempt assets and to distribute them to creditors based on priority. Eventually, a plan is approved for repaying as much of the debts as possible.

Typically, some creditors end up getting pennies on the dollar, or nothing at all.

There’s also a chance that the filing will be converted into a full-blown liquidation under Chapter 7, where Brunell basically comes out of the process with the shirt on his back and the roof over his head, and everything else goes to creditors.

He reportedly plans to sign with the Jets on or after July 22, when the rules of the “Final Eight Plan” expire. It remains to be seen whether the Jets will choose to follow through on their interest, given that Brunell necessarily brings to Broadway the kind of baggage that some teams would prefer to avoid.