Former Ducks offensive lineman Doug Brenner has settled with the University of Oregon after dismissing civil allegations against two former coaches related to controversial workouts in early 2017.
In a $125.5 million lawsuit filed against Oregon, the two coaches and the NCAA, Brenner said players were required to perform hundreds of pushups and up-downs without rest and were denied water during the first day of conditioning as coaches told them to keep at it and said if they stopped, they were quitting on their teammates and the team.
Brenner sought $25.5 million from Oregon, former football coach Willie Taggart and former strength coach Irele Oderinde for pain and suffering stemming from the workouts, which put him and two other players in the hospital.
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Attorneys said in court Thursday morning that Taggart and Oderinde were being dismissed as defendants, then announced Brenner and Oregon had reached a confidential agreement to settle the case.
The settlement agreement comes after Lane County Circuit Court Judge Clara Rigmaiden granted a request from the university’s attorneys to direct the jury to remove “any damages related to the NFL” from Brenner’s claims of lost earning capacity in the case.
Rigmaiden’s ruling Wednesday followed nearly four weeks of testimony in a jury trial that began April 12.
The university did not immediately respond to a request for comment. Neither did attorneys for Brenner or the university.
Shortly after he arrived in Eugene in late 2016, Oderinde was suspended for one month without pay following the hospitalization of Brenner, fellow offensive lineman Samuelu Poutasi and tight end Cam McCormick after workouts he led.
All three players were diagnosed with rhabdomyolysis, a potentially life-threatening condition in which muscle tissue breaks down and is secreted through urine. Poutasi filed a similar lawsuit as Brenner but settled just before the trial was set to begin, and McCormick chose not to file a lawsuit.
Brenner is still seeking $100 million from the NCAA as a punitive measure.
Highlights from Brenner’s case
Brenner’s attorneys laid out their case over about two weeks, arguing the hospitalization and rhabdomyolysis shattered his dreams of playing in the NFL and led to hip surgeries and long-term health issues.
Doctors talked about impacts on Brenner’s kidneys.
Dr. Raymond Petrillo, the nephrologist who’s currently treating Brenner, said he likely is “on a path to have chronic kidney disease” that will eventually require dialysis, a kidney transplant or both.
Petrillo testified that is a result of the January 2017 workouts, which he estimates shortened Brenner’s lifespan by 10 to 15 years.
He also said he thinks the rhabdomyolysis and return to play before being back to full strength contributed to Brenner needing two hip surgeries.
A former coach and former teammates, including former Ducks star quarterback Marcus Mariota, said they thought Brenner had a shot at the NFL but the January 2017 incident ended those prospects.
Given Rigmaiden’s ruling, it isn’t clear how relevant that testimony is as jurors consider Brenner’s claims against the NCAA.
Former teammates also talked about how grueling the workouts were and generally agreed with Brenner’s allegations that there wasn’t water available, players were vomiting and passing out, and players felt pressured to continue the workouts even while sore and exhausted.
Brenner during testimony said hearing from doctors that he will have a shorter life weighs on him and has a major impact on his family.
“It’s tough on them to think of me not being around one day because of some dumb workouts,” he said.
Brenner said the workouts “completely altered the course of my life” and he thinks both UO and the NCAA carry blame.
He said he filed the lawsuit to prevent others from going through the same thing.
“I want this to not happen to any more guys, any more student-athletes,” Brenner testified.
Highlights from the defense
Defense attorneys spent the past week or so having witnesses refute Brenner’s allegations.
Taggart and Oderinde testified the workouts weren’t intended as punishment or a way to drive players away.
They were intended as a warmup where players would learn to work in unison before going to the weight room, the coaches testified, and other teams had gotten through them successfully and moved on to the full workout.
“Unfortunately, here our guys didn’t get it as fast as other teams,” Taggart testified. “That was the first time we ever went that long (with pushups and up-downs), and it was a mistake.”
Tony Brooks-James, a former Ducks running back, testified there was water available. He couldn’t remember seeing anyone pass out or vomit and said he didn’t feel like his physical health was at risk.
Kim Terrell, senior associate director of athletic medicine at UO, said while she thought there could have been better communication, the workouts weren’t unsafe.
The defense also brought in attorneys to refute allegations about the impact the workouts had on Brenner’s long-term health.
Dr. Marc Safran, chief of sports medicine at Stanford University, testified Brenner’s hip injuries were unrelated to his rhabdomyolysis.
Multiple nephrologists testified they disagreed with Petrillo’s conclusion that Brenner’s rhabdomyolysis caused an acute kidney injury that’s led to an increased risk of chronic kidney disease.
Dr. Gaurav Jain, a practicing nephrologist who teaches at the University of Alabama at Birmingham School of Medicine, said he saw no evidence of Brenner having an acute kidney injury.
Jain testified while Brenner was at risk for an acute injury, medical professionals treated him appropriately to avoid that. He added he doesn’t think Brenner is at risk of kidney failure.
“His kidney function has not worsened over time,” Jain testified.
Though the jury will no longer consider damages against the NCAA related to a potential NFL career, the defense started its case with Rick Spielman, who until January was the general manager for the Minnesota Vikings.
Spielman told jurors he’d spent 30 hours watching 14 games in which Brenner played and did everything else he normally would to evaluate a player.
His ultimate conclusion: Brenner “was not an NFL prospect.”
Follow Megan Banta on Twitter @MeganBanta_1.