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Federal concussion lawsuit changes with death of Ray Easterling

The nature of the concussion-related lawsuit against the NFL will change with the suicide of former Atlanta Falcons safety Ray Easterling.

"We'll change it from a personal-injury case to a wrongful-death case," Philadelphia attorney Larry Coben told USA Today on Sunday.

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Easterling, 62, was found dead in his Richmond, Va., home last Thursday. reported late Friday that Richmond police captain Yvonne Crowder said Easterling died of a self-inflicted gunshot wound.

"In the last six months, I guess, I could tell he was not on his game," Coben said of Easterling's death. "He kept repeating himself and getting confused. It's pretty tough, pretty tough."

Easterling played for the Falcons from 1972 to 1979, helping to lead the team's "Gritz Blitz" defense that set the NFL record for fewest points allowed in a season in 1977.

He and a group of seven former players sued the NFL in Philadelphia in August, claiming the league failed to properly treat players for concussions and tried to conceal for decades any links between football and brain injuries. It was the first potential class-action lawsuit that was filed.

Sixty-one concussion-related lawsuits now have been filed, according to

The NFL has said any allegation that the league intentionally sought to mislead players is without merit.

Many of the cases have been consolidated in federal court in Philadelphia. U.S. District Court Judge Anita B. Brody will hold an initial with the attorneys to set a timetable and framework for the proceedings.

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