January 22, 2014 Updated: January 22, 2014 at 7:32 pm
In 1½ weeks, Peyton Manning will become only the third quarterback to start for two franchises in the Super Bowl. The first guy to do it, Craig Morton, is among the thousands of former players suing the NFL about concussions.
Morton played QB for the Dallas Cowboys in the 1971 Super Bowl, and for the Denver Broncos — Manning's current club — in the 1978 Super Bowl. Last month, Morton filed a complaint against the league in U.S. District Court in California, where he lives.
"I'm not trying to hurt the NFL. Come on, guys, just take care of your players. It just doesn't make any sense — so many guys are hurting, and (the league) neglected to handle it," Morton said Wednesday in a telephone interview.
"The NFL should have been taking care of these guys a long time ago. They can do that; they can be a compassionate group," said Morton, who turns 71 on Feb. 5, three days after Manning's Broncos face the Seattle Seahawks for the championship. "I want to know what (NFL owners) know, and what they did know."
Last week, a federal judge in Philadelphia slowed down the proposed $765 million settlement of NFL concussion claims, questioning if there's enough money to cover all retired players who'd get access to the funds. U.S. District Judge Anita B. Brody also raised concerns that anyone receiving lawsuit-related payments from the NFL would be barred from suing the NCAA.
"If you accept this settlement, you cannot ever sue the NFL or the NCAA — what kind of stuff is that? That should set off alarms across the country," Morton said.
Morton went 0-2 in Super Bowl starts. Kurt Warner went 1-2 as a starting quarterback in Super Bowls with the St. Louis Rams and Arizona Cardinals. Manning went 1-1 in Super Bowls with the Indianapolis Colts, winning in 2007. He joined Denver before last season.
Morton played in the NFL from 1965-82, also spending time with the New York Giants, and doesn't know how many head injuries he had.
But he said he feels the effects of what his court filing says were 373 regular-season sacks.
"'Concussions' was not really a word. It was, 'Pop the smelling salts' or 'Count the number of fingers you have, then go ahead.' Over 18 years, though, I'm sure I had a few," Morton said.
"I've got my headaches. I've got really horrible shoulders and neck pain. I constantly have to have shots in my spine. My feet are numb. I've got to have another shoulder replacement. I've had three knee replacements and probably have to have another one," he told The Associated Press. "I'm no different from anybody else who played that long. There are a lot of guys out there."