Ray Easterling
Date of birth: (1949-09-03)September 3, 1949
Place of birth: Richmond, Virginia, US
Date of death: April 19, 2012(2012-04-19) (aged 62)
Place of death: Richmond, Virginia
Career information
Position(s): Safety
College: Richmond
NFL Draft: 1972 / Round: 9 / Pick: 223
 As player:
1972–1979 Atlanta Falcons
Playing stats at

Ray Easterling (September 3, 1949[1] – April 19, 2012[2]) was an American football safety in the National Football League. He graduated from the University of Richmond in 1972 and was drafted by the Atlanta Falcons in the ninth round of the 1972 NFL Draft.[1]

Ray Easterling played 8 seasons for the Atlanta Falcons as a free safety, strong safety and occasional kickoff returner. He retired after the 1979 season, having appeared in 83 games and recording 13 interceptions and 6 fumble recoveries.[3]

In 2011, along with several other NFL players, including two-time Super Bowl champion Jim McMahon, Easterling filed a federal lawsuit in Philadelphia, against the NFL over its handling of concussion-related injuries. Unlike a similar suit filed in Los Angeles a month earlier, this suit is the first to seek class-action status and potentially include many other players. Attorney Larry Coben, representing the plaintiffs, stated, "The big issue, for us, is they were told for decades to lead with their heads. The NFL would never admit that there's any correlation (to later health problems)."[4]

Easterling died on April 19, 2012, at the age of 62. His death was ruled a suicide.[5] It is believed that Easterling shot himself due to clinical depression resulting from dementia "as he lost the ability to focus, organise his thoughts and relate to people", with the dementia itself the result of the lifetime of head injuries during Easterling's career.[6] His wife of 36 years Mary Ann Easterling said she will fight to continue the lawsuit despite her husband's death, and will urge the league to establish a fund for players like her husband who suffered traumatic brain injuries from their playing days.[7]

On July 27, 2012 Easterling's autopsy report was released. The autopsy by the medical examiner in Richmond, VA found signs of chronic traumatic encephalopathy(CTE), progressive damage that has been linked to blows to the head, and determined that it was the underlying major condition that accounted for Easterling’s difficulties.[8][9]


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