Former 49ers and Raiders center Jeremy Newberry is a prominent voice in a legal attack on the NFL over the long-term health of its athletes, according to a suit filed on behalf of retired players accusing the league of supplying them painkillers and other drugs that led to serious complications later in life.

The suit seeks unspecified damages for more than 500 ex-athletes and accuses the NFL of putting profits before the health of its players.

"I don't really care personally if I get a nickel out of this thing," Newberry said in a phone interview. "If I can change the drug culture in the NFL and save a handful of youngsters from having to deal with what I deal with on a regular basis, then this thing is all worth it."

To get players on the field, team doctors and trainers dispensed drugs illegally, without obtaining prescription or warning of the possible side effects, the plaintiffs contend.

NFL commissioner Roger Goodell, in Atlanta for the league's spring meetings, said, "Our attorneys have not seen the lawsuit, and obviously I have been in meetings all day."

Some of the plaintiffs also include former Chicago Bears Richard Dent, Keith Van Horne and Jim McMahon and former offensive lineman Kyle Turley.

Less than a year ago, the NFL agreed to pay $765 million to settle lawsuits from thousands of retired players who accused it of concealing the risks of concussions. That settlement has not been approved because a federal judge has expressed concern that the amount is too small.


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The new suit filed in federal court in San Francisco alleges some players were never told they had broken bones and were instead given pills to mask the pain. Newberry said he went entire seasons without practicing and estimates he took "probably 150" shots of the anti-inflammatory drug Toradol so he could play on Sundays.

Newberry said he suffers from kidney damage as a result and can no longer take anti-inflammatory drugs to treat headaches for chronic pain or "I'll be looking at being on a kidney transplant list."

During his time with the 49ers (1998-2006), Raiders (2007) and San Diego Chargers (2008), Newberry said it was a common sight to see "15 to 20 players" lined up for Toradol injections on game day.

Newberry said he also was treated with the painkiller Vicodin and Novocain and that he asked doctors about side effects "not just once, but several times" and the response was 'you might bruise a little more. Don't worry about it, you're good to go.' "

Given a complete physical every year, Newberry said he was told each season he was cleared to play.

Once retired, Newberry said doctors looked at his medical records and told him the level of protein in his blood should have been a red flag for kidney damage.

Newberry, who went public in 2012 on HBO's "Real Sports" about the use of Toradol, said he believes not much has changed since he stopped playing and that players are under as much pressure as ever to get on the field.

"The thing is, if the team trainer and the team doctor are giving it to you as an option, what's a kid to say?" Newberry said. "If you say no, they'll find someone else. That's the Catch-22. It should never be up to the player at that point."

Steven Silverman, an attorney for the players, said, "The NFL knew the debilitating effects of these drugs on all of its player and callously ignored the players' long-term health in its obsession to return them to play."

Turley, who played for the Saints, Rams and Chiefs from 1998 through 2007, said drugs were "handed out to us like candy."

"There was a room set up near the locker room and you got in line," Turley said. "Obviously we were grown adults, and we had a choice, but when a team doctor is saying this will take the pain away, you trust them."

Newberry, who was a two-time Pro Bowler and won the Ed Block Courage Award in 2005, said he has no regrets about playing in the NFL.

"I only regret the stuff I took to play," he said.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.