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Memory loss prompted Rypien to join lawsuit against NFL

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Even studying football when he volunteers with Shadle Park High’s team in Spokane, Wash., isn’t the same for the man who was Super Bowl XXVI’s most valuable player. The changes alarmed him.

“I was kind of a brainiac when it came to the game,” Rypien said. “The X’s and O’s came easily to me. I really have to struggle now. … It seems like I’m learning the game again which once came so easily.”

During a 25-minute conversation Wednesday, Rypien paused in mid-sentence trying to recall the year he absorbed a dizzying hit against the Minnesota Vikings. He remembered other details from the game, which was played in October 1992. But the year was like a black hole.

Adding to Rypien’s concern was last year’s suicide of Rick Rypien, his cousin who suffered concussions as an NHL enforcer.

So, Rypien filled out a survey on head injuries from the NFL Alumni Association two weeks ago and was connected with Craig Mitnick, co-counsel with Gene Locks in the suit.

Rypien still loves football. He would still play again knowing the risks. But he wished the NFL was more forthcoming about the long-term consequences of head injuries. He wants the game to be safer, where health matters more than wins.

“We need to take care of our people,” Rypien said, “not look after how much money we’re going to make based on putting people out there in very precarious, scary positions and really engaging them in a life-threatening practice.”

Fourteen other ex-Redskins are also part of the lawsuit, one of dozens filed against the NFL over head injuries. Mitnick’s group represents over 550 ex-players who have sued the NFL.

“We probably put up a good front,” Rypien said. “We want to make it look like things are OK. But each one of those individuals, like myself, has got issues going on and things that are alarming.

“I worry about 10 years from now.”

This article was written by Nathan Fenno and appeared in the Washington Times.

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