NFL Notes: Aaron Hernandez had severe CTE; daughter sues NFL, Patriots

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NFL Notes: Aaron Hernandez had severe CTE; daughter sues NFL, Patriots

BOSTON -- Former New England Patriots star Aaron Hernandez had a severe case of the degenerative brain disease chronic traumatic encephalopathy, his lawyer said on Thursday in announcing a lawsuit against the NFL and the team for hiding the true dangers of the sport.

Dr. Ann McKee, the director of the CTE Center at Boston University, said Hernandez had Stage 3 (out of 4) of the disease, which can cause violent mood swings, depression and other cognitive disorders.

"We're told it was the most severe case they had ever seen for someone of Aaron's age," attorney Jose Baez said.

Hernandez killed himself in April in the prison cell where he was serving a life-without-parole sentence for murder. Baez said Hernandez had shown signs of memory loss, impulsivity and aggression that could be attributed to CTE (see full story).

Jets: Williams limited with bone bruise in wrist
FLORHAM PARK, N.J. -- New York Jets defensive lineman Leonard Williams was limited at practice with a wrist injury that he says is a bone bruise.

Williams was originally injured during the preseason, and says Thursday that his wrist is bothering him at times. It doesn't appear that the injury will keep him out of the Jets' home opener Sunday against Miami, but Williams might have to play through it.

Defensive lineman Muhammad Wilkerson sat out practice for the second straight day with a sore shoulder. He said Wednesday that it wasn't a big deal, and coach Todd Bowles says the Jets will see how it feels as the week goes along.

Starting right guard Brian Winters (abdomen) and tight ends Jordan Leggett (knee) and Eric Tomlinson (elbow) also didn't practice. Fourth-year backup Dakota Dozier would start if Winters is unable to play (see full story).

Packers: Perry latest key player to go down with injury
GREEN BAY, Wis. -- The banged-up Green Bay Packers have lost another key player to injury with outside linebacker Nick Perry scheduled to have hand surgery.

Coach Mike McCarthy says he doesn't know how much time Perry will miss. He was off to a good start as the bookend to fellow edge rusher Clay Matthews with 1 sacks.

The Packers' first-round draft pick in 2012, Perry had a breakout 2016 last season with 11 sacks in 14 games.

The loss of Perry places added importance on the return of Ahmad Brooks, who was a full participant in practice on Wednesday after missing the Week 2 loss at Atlanta because of a concussion (see full story).

Broncos: Miller baffled by low hit from Cowboys receiver
ENGLEWOOD, Colo. -- Von Miller says he's baffled by Cowboys wide receiver Noah Brown's low hit on him Sunday.

The Broncos linebacker pushed through Brown's block on the game's second snap and Brown got up and dived at Miller's knees as Denver's star chased down Ezekiel Elliott on a hand-off from Dak Prescott.

Miller shook off the hit to have a monster game in Denver's 42-17 win , but he has dealt with soreness in his left knee this week.

"My stance is as a player I've always tried to take care of my players on my football team and opponents as well, whether it's the quarterbacks, receivers, the running backs. So, when it's the other way around, it's just baffling," Miller said Thursday after returning to practice full-time following a limited practice Wednesday.

"But you can't really spend too much time on it," Miller added. "Everybody's situation in the National Football League is different. Everybody doesn't have the same outlook that I have and some of my comrades in the National Football League (have). Everybody doesn't see it that way. Everybody doesn't play the game like I play the game. You've got to respect that."

Earlier in the week, Broncos coach Vance Joseph declined to criticize the Cowboys wide receiver for his low hit, saying, "I saw it. It wasn't called. I'm OK with it."

Miller shook off the low hit and finished the afternoon with two sacks, five quarterback hits, two tackles for loss and a pass breakup.

Current and former Eagles discuss football, future amid 'alarming' CTE study

Current and former Eagles discuss football, future amid 'alarming' CTE study

This is the time of year usually reserved for folks to get excited about football. Training camps around the NFL are back and it won't be long before the 2017 regular season starts. 

This week, though, the beaming sun of training camp was put on hold as the NFL's black cloud came back into focus. 

"That's the elephant in the room that a lot of people don't want to talk about," Brandon Graham said on Wednesday. 

More troubling results about the correlation between playing football and chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE) were published Tuesday in the Journal of the American Medical Association

The study examined the brains of 202 deceased football players and showed that 177 of them suffered from the brain disease. Of the 111 brains from former NFL players, 110 of them were diagnosed with CTE. 

It's necessary to remember that many of the families of players submitted their brains because of symptoms shown while they were still living. So the study wasn't just a random one of a cross-section of football. 

Still, it's scary. 

It's scary for those players who have already retired and are either starting to feel the effects or are morbidly awaiting their arrival while hoping they don't come. And it's scary for current players who wonder what their quality of life will be like in 25 or 30 years. 

On Wednesday, as the Eagles' veterans began to arrive at the NovaCare Complex, several were asked about the study and about their thoughts on CTE and the NFL. 

Malcolm Jenkins hadn't yet read the study by the time he entered the locker room on Wednesday afternoon, but was quickly filled in about its results, about the 110 out of 111 NFL brains to show CTE. 

"That's probably what I assumed anyway," Jenkins said. "But at the end of the day, everybody who puts on a helmet, puts on shoulder pads, has to kind of weigh their own options, weigh the risk-reward. As long as you can make that educated decision, I think it's up to the individual."

Jenkins said he "100 percent" thinks about how long he wants to play in the NFL. For him, it's all about weighing the risk vs. the reward. Jenkins' goal is to play at least 10 years in the NFL — this will be Year 9 — and then analyze it year to year. Jenkins, who has other interests outside of football, most notably his foray into fashion, said he tries to take steps to ensure his body is taken care of. The scary part about CTE, though, is that the symptoms sometimes show up much later. 

Now 29, Jenkins is a father. Would he let his kids play football? 

"Yeah, I would let my kids play," he said. "Simply because, obviously, that's a huge risk, but the amount of things this game has given me, the amount of lessons it's taught me, I wouldn't change a thing. I think there's definitely value in this game. There's a reason that it's the highest grossing game out there. The amount of things that I've learned playing this game that have transitioned off the field into life itself is something I would always encourage."

Like Jenkins, Lane Johnson's goal is to play at least 10 years in the NFL; this will be Year 5. But unlike Jenkins, Johnson said he might actually want to steer his son to play basketball instead of football. "They get all the guaranteed money nowadays," he said. 

But if his son did want to play football, Johnson wouldn't stand in his way. 

"Yeah, I'm not going to force him into anything," Johnson said. "But if he wanted to, yeah. But there's definitely safety measures, the right way of tackling, the right way of hitting. There are ways around it."

Even knowing what he does now, Johnson said he'd still play football. He claimed to love the game too much to think about doing something else. 

"It's probably not going to affect us so much now, but come back when I'm 50 and do an interview and see if you can tell the difference," Johnson said smiling, before turning serious. "It's definitely concerning. It's alarming." 

The brains of offensive linemen in the study showed the highest percentage of CTE diagnoses, which didn't come as much of a surprise to right guard Brandon Brooks.

Brooks, 27, and entering Year 6, explained: "Because we're hitting our head every play. Running the ball, pass blocking. I think the kind of misconception is that people like safeties, receivers get the big hits, but it's not the big hits. It does have a correlation, but if you're getting your head hit every play constantly, whether it's practice from when you're a little kid up until now, or in the games, obviously, it's going to have some type of effect."

Brooks has had one documented concussion in his career but admitted he doesn't know how many other times he's had one and shaken it off. He said as players get older, they start to think about if the risk outweighs the reward a little more. 

But it doesn't change the outlook for his career now. 

"Nah. I'm six years in now," Brooks said. "It is what it is. I look at it like if something were to happen to me, it's more of like a sacrifice for my wife and kids for the future. An opportunity for them to change their life and their futures. As grim as it is to say, I've played long enough that it's either going to happen or it's not. I don't look at it like I'm going to change my career path. I chose to play the game I love."

Graham, like the others, loves football, too, but if he knew everything he knows now about the connection between football and CTE, he'd at least think about it more. 

"I'd probably play baseball," he said. "You're right. I probably would have thought about it a little bit. I don't know. I think the way my attitude is, the way I like hitting people and going out there, man, I don't know. It's kind of tough."

While the players in the locker room have to think about their distant futures, some Eagles greats have to think about the next few years and wonder if CTE will hit them the way it has their former peers. 

Brian Dawkins, Harold Carmichael and Mike Quick all answered questions on Wednesday about the new CTE study. 

"No, it does not [concern me]," said Dawkins, 43, who was known for his violent style of play. "I did everything I could as far as the things that I put in my body to help hopefully offset some of those things. If something happens later on in life, I'll deal with it. But as of right now, I'm a blessed man, being able to still be around football and still help this organization out."

All three men seemed to agree that today's game is safer than when they played. The NFL has taken strides in an attempt to limit heavy blows that could cause damage.  

Carmichael, 67, remembered his playing days when clotheslining players was legal and defenseless receivers were just easy targets. 

"I'm not taking anything away from these guys," he said. "They're still hitting hard, guys are still playing hard. They're real pros out there still. The rules have changed a lot and I agree with some of the stuff. It helps the guys and protects the guys from really being seriously injured."

Quick, 58, also acknowledged the rule changes the NFL has implemented, but noted there doesn't seem to be any way to completely eliminate the concussion danger in football. It's always going to be a physical game. 

Quick was asked how lucky he felt to not feel any CTE symptoms. 

"Well, who knows? I don't know if I can say I'm not dealing with it," he answered. "I think my life's pretty good. But I don't know what it's going to be like five years from now, 10 years from now. Of course, I had concussions like many other guys. I played in the league for nine years. Don't know what the long-term effect is going to be on me. I don't know."

Eagles react to new study showing CTE found in majority of football players' brains

Eagles react to new study showing CTE found in majority of football players' brains

CHICAGO -- Research on 202 former football players found evidence of brain disease in nearly all of them, from athletes in the NFL, college and even high school.

It's the largest update on chronic traumatic encephalopathy, or CTE, a brain disease linked with repeated head blows.

But the report doesn't confirm that the condition is common in all football players; it reflects high occurrence in samples at a Boston brain bank that studies CTE. Many donors or their families contributed because of the players' repeated concussions and troubling symptoms before death.

"There are many questions that remain unanswered," said lead author Dr. Ann McKee, a Boston University neuroscientist. "How common is this" in the general population and all football players?

"How many years of football is too many?" and "What is the genetic risk? Some players do not have evidence of this disease despite long playing years," she noted.

It's also uncertain if some players' lifestyle habits -- alcohol, drugs, steroids, diet -- might somehow contribute, McKee said.

Dr. Munro Cullum, a neuropsychologist at UT Southwestern Medical Center in Dallas, emphasized that the report is based on a selective sample of men who were not necessarily representative of all football players. He said problems other than CTE might explain some of their most common symptoms before death -- depression, impulsivity and behavior changes. He was not involved in the report.

McKee said research from the brain bank may lead to answers and an understanding of how to detect the disease in life, "while there's still a chance to do something about it." There's no known treatment.

The study came out just days before Eagles' veterans report to training camp, causing Chris Long and Brandon Brooks to react on Twitter.


The strongest scientific evidence says CTE can only be diagnosed by examining brains after death, although some researchers are experimenting with tests performed on the living. Many scientists believe that repeated blows to the head increase risks for developing CTE, leading to progressive loss of normal brain matter and an abnormal buildup of a protein called tau. Combat veterans and athletes in rough contact sports like football and boxing are among those thought to be most at risk.

The new report was published Tuesday in the Journal of the American Medical Association.

CTE was diagnosed in 177 former players or nearly 90 percent of brains studied. That includes 110 of 111 brains from former NFL players; 48 of 53 college players; nine of 14 semi-professional players, seven of eight Canadian Football league players and three of 14 high school players. The disease was not found in brains from two younger players.

A panel of neuropathologists made the diagnosis by examining brain tissue, using recent criteria from the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke, McKee said.

The NFL issued a statement saying these reports are important for advancing science related to head trauma and said the league "will continue to work with a wide range of experts to improve the health of current and former NFL athletes."

After years of denials, the NFL acknowledged a link between head blows and brain disease and agreed in a $1 billion settlement to compensate former players who had accused the league of hiding the risks.

The journal update includes many previously reported cases, including former NFL players Bubba Smith, Ken Stabler, Junior Seau and Dave Duerson.

New ones include retired tight end Frank Wainright, whose 10-year NFL career included stints with the Miami Dolphins, New Orleans Saints and Baltimore Ravens. Wainright died last October at age 48 from a heart attack triggered by bleeding in the brain, said his wife, Stacie. She said he had struggled almost eight years with frightening symptoms including confusion, memory loss and behavior changes.

Wainright played before the league adopted stricter safety rules and had many concussions, she said. He feared CTE and was adamant about donating his brain, she said.

"A lot of families are really tragically affected by it -- not even mentioning what these men are going through and they're really not sure what is happening to them. It's like a storm that you can't quite get out of," his wife said.

Frank Wycheck, another former NFL tight end, said he worries that concussions during his nine-year career -- the last seven with the Tennessee Titans -- have left him with CTE and he plans to donate his brain to research.

"Some people have heads made of concrete, and it doesn't really affect some of those guys," he said. "But CTE is real."

"I know I'm suffering through it, and it's been a struggle and I feel for all the guys out there that are going through this," said Wycheck, 45.

In the new report, McKee and colleagues found the most severe disease in former professional players; mild disease was found in all three former high school players diagnosed with the disease. Brain bank researchers previously reported that the earliest known evidence of CTE was found in a high school athlete who played football and other sports who died at age 18. He was not included in the current report.

The average age of death among all players studied was 66. There were 18 suicides among the 177 diagnosed.