Family of ex-Bear Jim Dooley files NFL concussion settlement claim

November 13, 2013 (LAKE FOREST, Ill.)

Jim Dooley died in 2008 of ALS, a disease his family believes was caused by playing in the NFL. The Dooley family says filing a claim is not about money. They say it's about the acknowledgement that Dooley and others in his era took years of abuse on the football field.

Sid Luckman had given this to Jim, Halas had given it to Sid Luckman. She lives with the memories every day. Elaine Dooley's Lake Forest condominium is all about her husband's long career with the Chicago Bears. It began in 1952 when Jim Dooley was chosen as a first round draft pick.

"He went to Coach Halas and he said, 'Coach, what do I get as a bonus' and Coach Halas said, 'Son, when you were chosen by the Chicago Bears that was your bonus,'" said Elaine Dooley, Jim Dooley's wife.

When his playing days were done, Dooley became a Bears coach, eventually replacing the legendary George Halas as the head coach in 1968. After some time away from the franchise, Dooley was rehired as an assistant coach under Mike Ditka in the 1980s. Dooley's family says he was a picture of health: never smoked, drank or took medication until he was diagnosed with ALS. After suffering for a decade, the debilitating disease took Dooley's life at the age of 77 in 2008.

"Later on as it progressed, he realized it was the football, because he never did anything to hurt his body," said Elaine Dooley.

And like hundreds of former NFL players, the Dooley family is filing a claim to be part of the historic $765 million NFL concussion settlement.

"In a lot of ways, the players that played in Jim Dooley's era are probably the most deserving of this type of compensation," said Pat Salvi, Dooley family attorney.

Back then it was a different ball game: lax rules, soft helmets, players that played both offense and defense, with only twelve teams in the league, the expectation to play no matter what.

"Concussions weren't really talked about or discussed, they would call them bell ringers, or he was knocked silly," said James Dooley, Jr., son.

As a young boy, Jim Dooley used to watch his dad from the sidelines.

"No matter what condition he was in, it didn't make a difference it was all about the game," said Dooley, Jr.

Because not much was known about concussions back then, the Dooley's don't blame anyone. However, they do believe their father's hard work and years he suffered should be compensated. ALS is one of the diseases that former players must prove in order to qualify for a claim.

And pay out won't be significant, because there are thousands of players filing.

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