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Joe DeLamielleure, Bruce Smith sign brain plea to NFL commish

By Tim Graham

CANTON, Ohio -- Buffalo Bills legends Bruce Smith and Joe DeLamielleure and 16 other Pro Football Hall of Famers have signed a letter that tells NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell they are disappointed in the league's "continued denial of the link between repeated head impacts and permanent brain damage."

The letter was sent two days before the Hall of Fame stages its annual enshrinement weekend. This year is the Hall of Fame's 50th anniversary celebration, with as many as 130 inductees returning to Canton.

"Though the NFL now claims to be better protecting current players from the risks and consequences of head injuries, it is at times difficult to believe, especially as the league continues to evade confirming the link between repeated hits to the head and long-term neurological issues suffered by so many of our football brethren. ...

"No one wants to see another generation of players suffer this fate. As former players, we refuse to stand by quietly and watch men who unknowingly sacrificed their health and future to the NFL go without the care they desperately need."

The letter doesn't make any specific demands, ambiguously asking for "more than lip service ... to provide for the players who made the league what it is today."

But the timing of the letter and the names of the men who signed it deliver a symbolic statement about the plight of former players who suffer long-term effects from a grueling profession.

The NFL is being sued by about 4,200 former players who claim to suffer from neurological trauma or conditions caused by football collisions.


Bruce Smith | Joe DeLamielleure | Roger Goodell
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About Press Coverage

Tim Graham

Tim Graham

Tim Graham returned to The Buffalo News in 2011 after covering the NFL for three years at ESPN and for one year at the Palm Beach Post. Before that, the Cleveland native spent seven seasons on the Buffalo Sabres beat for The News and was president of the Boxing Writers Association of America.

@ByTimGraham |

Mark Gaughan

Mark Gaughan

Buffalo native Mark Gaughan started working at The News in 1980 and has been covering the Bills exclusively since 1992. He is a former president of the Pro Football Writers of America, and he is a member of the Pro Football Hall of Fame selection committee.

@gggaughan |

Jay Skurski

Jay Skurski

Jay Skurski joined The News in January 2009. The Lewiston native attended St. Francis High School before graduating from the University of South Florida. He writes a weekly Fantasy column in addition to his beat writing duties.

@JaySkurski |