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NFLPA to pay players from lockout fund starting April 15

The NFL Players Association this week began contacting players found eligible to receive payments from its lockout fund. Those payments will begin April 15.

The NFLPA established the fund to help players in need, and its accounting department has begun sending out notification letters and direct-deposit slips. The letters and forms going out to players -- copies of which were acquired by NFL Network/NFL.com -- include information on receiving payments.

According to an NFLPA source, the maximum payments to an individual player would total $60,000, to be paid out this offseason during the lockout. The fund was created via player dues and right's fees during 2009 and 2010. If a player was on a 53-man roster for all 34 weeks of the regular season during those two years, then he would be eligible for that maximum, $60,000 payment, which would be distributed in six projected increments.

The e-mail to players reads as follows:

"We are e-mailing you to inform you that the NFLPA Board of Player Directors approved the payout from the Lockout Fund to begin on April 15, in six installments or until the lockout ends. In order to start receiving your payments, please fill out the attached direct deposit enrollment form and return it to us with a voided check from your checking account or bank letter verifying the account information. We will e-mail you at the address that you provide on the form when payments are sent to your bank account.

"Please note that any other future payments that you may receive from the NFLPA or NFL PLAYERS Inc (for example player marketing deals or royalty payments) will be deposited into this account and you will be notified via email of the deposit."

During a recent press briefing at the NFLPA annual meeting, executive director DeMaurice Smith acknowledged the organization had a fund established to help players in need but declined to divulge any details about specifics of how deep it is or how much individuals could receive from it.

While $60,000 is more than the yearly household income for many Americans, and, in this case, is meant to help locked-out players make mortgage and car payments and provide a form of income at a time when they aren't being paid, it pales in comparison to the level of compensation to which most players are accustomed.

NFL minimum salaries -- paid over 17 game checks (and not including any bonuses or incentives) -- range from roughly $340,000 per season to just less than $900,000 per season. Many players earn substantially more than $1 million per season in annual compensation. The average NFL salary exceeds $2 million per season; a player making $2 million per season would receive nearly $118,000 before taxes, per game check.

Hundreds of players would have been eligible for free agency in March, and many had significant roster bonuses and/or offseason workout bonuses due to them. Those bonuses can range from approximately $25,000 to several million dollars.

For the past two years, NFLPA officials have been educating players on saving money for a lockout and stressing the importance of living on a budget and setting aside money to cover monthly living expenses for at least the spring and summer of 2011. Structuring short-term investments around the 2011 offseason also was a point of emphasis.

The lockout-fund payments will help, but if a player has lived beyond his means, it certainly won't be a financial panacea in and of itself.

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