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Ex-linebacker fights transfer of ‘bounty’ suit

Former football player Barrett Green is trying to move his case accusing the Washington Redskins of injuring him in a bounty program back to state court.

Green wants the case returned to Prince George’s County Circuit Court and challenges the team’s position that federal law and the National Football League’s collective bargaining agreement with players pre-empts state law jurisdiction.

The former New York Giants linebacker argued that his claims against the Redskins, former tight end Robert Royal and former defensive coordinator Gregg Williams do not rely on any provisions of the bargaining agreement.

Green argued that the agreement does not apply to his claims of battery, negligence and negligent supervision, since such torts are “not dependent upon the Plaintiff’s status as a football player,” Green’s motion stated. “They are generally applicable to the public as a whole.”

Green also contended that the collective bargaining agreement has no power over wrongful conduct by players from opposing teams.

The case was filed in Prince George’s County Circuit Court, but the Redskins removed the case to U.S. District Court in Greenbelt on July 5. Green filed for the case to be moved back to circuit court this week.

In his lawsuit, Green claims he suffered a career-ending injury nine years ago as a result of a bounty program in which Williams encouraged players to injure members of opposing teams for monetary rewards.

Williams was indefinitely suspended from the NFL last year after he admitted to being part of a bounty program while coaching for the New Orleans Saints from 2009 to 2011. The suspension was lifted in February.

The NFL has cleared the Redskins of bounty program claims during Williams’ time with the Redskins, from 2004 to 2007.

In asking for removal to federal court, the Redskins argued that Green’s claims were pre-empted by a section of the Labor Management Relations Act because of the collective bargaining agreement.

Green, though, said the Redskins have not met the high burden of proving the case cannot be resolved without the interpretation of the collective bargaining agreement.

“In removing, the Defendants have failed to cite a specific basis for federal question jurisdiction, and have accordingly failed to demonstrate a federal question requiring interpretation of the [collective bargaining agreement],” Green’s motion to remand states. “Moreover, there is no possible basis under which the underlying cause of action could require interpretation of the CBA.”

Green’s attorney, Bruce M. Plaxen of Plaxen & Adler P.A. in Columbia, and Redskins attorney Robert L. Ferguson Jr. of Ferguson, Schetelich & Ballew P.A. in Baltimore, declined to comment on the ongoing litigation. The Redskins did not reply to a request for comment.

Green claims Royal targeted and dangerously tackled him during a December 2004 game at FedEx Field in Landover. Green alleges that Royal lowered his helmet and dived into his knees, tearing Green’s anterior cruciate ligament. The Giants terminated his contract the next year, which caused him to lose $10 million in wages.

Though Green complained at the time he was purposely targeted because he had been on the injury list before the game, his concerns were never acted upon.

Royal played defense sometimes while with the Redskins, which would have brought him under Williams’ wing, though he was mainly an offensive player.

The NFL announced in March 2012 that Williams admitted to paying players in cash to target other players, especially those with concussions. He is now coaching with the Tennessee Titans.

Green has not specified how much he is seeking, but does ask for compensatory and punitive damages for battery, vicarious liability, negligence and negligent supervision.

“Because Plaintiff’s Complaint neither cites, nor relies upon any provisions of the [collective bargaining agreement] and because no interpretation of the CBA is inextricably intertwined with Plaintiff’s Complaint, remand should be granted,” Green’s motion stated.