By Dennis O'Donnell

CBS 5 Sports Director Dennis O’Donnell hosts “Gameday” every Sunday night at 11:30pm and offers his unique sports analysis here.

SAN FRANCISCO (CBS 5) – Earlier this week several former NFL players filed a lawsuit against the league over brain injuries that they say left them struggling with medical problems years after their playing days ended.

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The players maintain the NFL knew as early as the 1920s of the potential for concussions to harm its players but only went public last year. In some ways, this reminds me of lung cancer victims who blame the tobcacco companies because they smoked 2 packs per day.

I’m a strong advocate for players rights, especially when it comes to the veterans who left their knees on the grass long before there was any real payday. The age when players needed to sell insurance in the off-season to make ends meet. But at some point the players have to assume responsibility.

And why stop with concussions? What about those who played without any ligaments in their knees? Or the players who had so many ankle surgeries that arthritis set in by the time they were 49. Did any of those players understand the long term effects of what they were doing to themselves at the time? Are their lawsuits coming?

Two weeks ago, Ben Rothlisberger suffered what appeared to be a serious ankle injury against the Cleveland Browns. He could barely put weight on his foot. But after a trip to the locker room, Rothlisberger was back on the field leading the Steelers to victory. The quarterback scoffed at suggestions that he took pain killers. But what long term effects did Rothisberger’s ankle incur?

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Football players play football. It’s a tough-man’s, macho mentality that, even IF they understand the consequences, they’d rather be on the gridiron with their brothers-in-arms.

The truth is, players will go at any length to stay on the field or get back on the field as soon as possible. Just ask Ronnie Lott, who cut off part of his pinkie rather to play football than stand on the sidelines. Are NFL owners responsible? Sure they are, but players must accept some degree of accountability.

The suit filed this week states, quote, “The NFL has done everything in its power to hide the issue and mislead players concerning the risks associated with concussions.”

I sometimes wonder if the players are hiding the information from themselves.

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I’m DOD… Merry Christmas and happy holidays. We’ll see you on Gameday tomorrow night at 11:30pm.

Dennis O'Donnell