Ray Easterling, 62, of 1970s Atlanta Falcons’ Grits Blitz

The Richmond, Va., police captain Yvonne Crowder.com on Saturday that Easterling died of a self-inflicted gunshot wound at his home in Richmond. His wife, Mary Ann Easterling, said that after he left football, Easterling experienced depression, insomnia and then dementia that she attributed to years of bruising hits.

Easterling played for the Falcons from 1972 to 1979 and was part of the team’s Grits Blitz defense in 1977 that set the N.F.L. record at the time for the fewest points allowed in a season, 129.

He was part of a group of seven former players who sued the league in Philadelphia in August, contending that it had failed to properly treat players for concussions and for decades had tried to conceal any links between football and brain injuries. The N.F.L. has said that any allegation that it intentionally sought to mislead players is without merit.

Ms. Easterly said she would continue to pursue the lawsuit and urge the league to establish a fund for players with traumatic brain injuries related to their playing days.

“Half the time the player puts themselves back in the game, and they don’t know what kind of impact it has,” she said. “Somehow this has got to be stopped.”

Easterling was born on Sept. 3, 1949, and played football at the University of Richmond. He was drafted by the Falcons as a ninth-round pick in 1972 and played for four years as a starter. He was a leader of the secondary that established a team record in 1977 with 26 interceptions.

After his playing days ended, he returned to Richmond, where he ran a financial services company and started a youth football camp. His wife and friends said that he started showing signs of brain damage about 20 years ago.

“He just wasn’t thinking right,” said Greg Brezina, a former Falcons teammate. “You could tell that 20 years ago. He’d start talking to you about one topic, and then he’d end up in another topic and he wouldn’t know how he got there.”

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Falcons Hire Koetter From Jags to Head Offense

The Falcons announced the hire on Sunday. ESPN first reported the move.

Mularkey, whose Falcons offense was shut out in a 24-2 playoff loss to the New York Giants last week, was introduced as Jacksonville’s coach on Wednesday. He hired former Falcons quarterbacks coach Bob Bratkowski to be his offensive coordinator.

The Falcons hired Koetter despite the Jaguars ranking last in the league in total offense and yards passing in 2011. Koetter’s offense ranked 29th with its average of 15.2 points per game.

Koetter was hired as Jacksonville’s offensive coordinator in 2007. He worked with Falcons coach Mike Smith for one year. Smith was the Jaguars’ defensive coordinator before he became Atlanta’s head coach in 2008.

Smith said Koetter will bring “a fresh set of ideas to our offense.”

“He is bright, he understands the intricacies of the vertical passing game, but he also wants to be able to run the football which is very important in the NFL,” Smith said. “I look forward to working with Dirk and have tremendous confidence that he will be a great addition to our team and our coaching staff.”

Smith has emphasized a run-first philosophy with Atlanta.

After the Jaguars fired Jack Del Rio this season, interim coach Mel Tucker assigned Koetter the additional role of quarterbacks coach for the final five games of the season.

Jacksonville rookie quarterback Blaine Gabbert and Luke McCown combined for 12 touchdown passes and 15 interceptions. The Jaguars’ strength was their running game. Maurice Jones-Drew led the NFL with 1,606 yards rushing.

The Falcons lost both coordinators after the season. The team is still looking to replace defensive coordinator Brian VanGorder, who moved back to the college ranks to head Auburn’s defense.

Koetter, 52, was a combined 66-44 as the head coach at Boise State (1998 to 2000) and Arizona State (2001-06).

With Atlanta, Koetter inherits an offense blessed with established starters such as quarterback Matt Ryan, running back Michael Turner, tight end Tony Gonzalez and receivers Roddy White and Julio Jones. With the exception of Jones, who was a breakout rookie in 2011, all those playmakers, plus fullback Ovie Mughelli, have been Pro Bowl selections.

Despite the wealth of talent, the offense was a disappointment as the team suffered its third straight playoff loss in its four years with Smith.

As part of their 2011 draft-day trade with Cleveland to move up in the first round and make Jones the No. 6 overall pick, the Falcons sent the Browns their 2012 first- and fourth-round picks.

That trade leaves the Falcons fewer draft picks this year to address problem areas on the offense, including on the offensive line.

A phone message was left seeking comment from Koetter.

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