Former NFL defensive end Marcellus Wiley has joined a lawsuit against the NFL alleging the league routinely and illegally provided them with prescription pills and various painkillers, putting their health at risk, in order to keep them on the field.
Wiley, now a prominent ESPN personality, is among more than 750 players who have joined the suit, filed in U.S. District Court in San Francisco last month. The 87-page complaint claims the NFL "has intentionally, recklessly and negligently created and maintained a culture of drug misuse, substituting players' health for profit."
According to a release from the law firm of Namanny, Byrne and Owens of Lake Forest, Calif., Wiley was diagnosed with a groin strain while playing for the San Diego Chargers. He told the NFL team doctor the pain was too widespread to be from a simple groin strain, and the doctor diagnosed the injury as a bilateral groin strain.
"Relying upon that diagnosis, Mr. Wiley played as expected through the injury, receiving multiple injections of an unknown, pain numbing substance for the rest of the season," according to the release.
Because he was still in pain after the season, the release said, Wiley sought a second opinion from a doctor unaffiliated with the NFL. He was diagnosed with a severely torn abdominal wall which the physician called "the worst I have ever seen" and required major surgery.
The release said: "That long-masked injury caused Mr. Wiley lasting, intense pain -- requiring even more injections and medications to continue playing -- and shortened his career."
In April, Wiley, 39, who said he had no history of kidney disease, was hospitalized and diagnosed with partial renal failure and the loss of half his kidney function.
"Mr. Wiley's kidney damage was caused by years of dangerous over-medication and cocktailing of prescription drugs by NFL trainers and doctors -- especially harmful to a player they knew had asthma," the release said.
Wiley played for four franchises during his 10-year career: Buffalo, San Diego, Dallas and Jacksonville.
In a week-long, first-person series I wrote with Wiley in 2003, when he was playing for the Chargers, he detailed the way players relied on painkillers to simply get through the week.
From the Wiley series, in his words:
"Sometimes you need a fistful of Vioxx. Any anti-inflammatory. You need it to survive. Vioxx is a beast. I love Vioxx. I'm going to invest in that company when I retire.
"When you get a shot of painkiller, it's not like when they're taking blood at a blood bank. They've got to grind that needle in there. I mean grind it. When you've got an injury and it's acute, they've got to go get it. They can't just shoot you up on the surface. The guys laugh at me because I'm in tears when I have to get one. I bite on a towel and just try not to pass out. I hate shots. I've fainted on shots before, so anything like that kills me.