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Bills pull pension-plan payments for now as lockout drags

BUFFALO, N.Y. -- The Buffalo Bills have suspended pension plan payments to all employees -- including coaches -- during the NFL lockout and potentially the rest of the year, in addition to across-the-board paycuts that had been previously announced.

Chief executive officer Russ Brandon confirmed in an e-mail to The Associated Press on Tuesday that the Bills had stopped paying into the 401K plan for the duration of the lockout and "will decide at a later date whether to reinstate them for 2011 based on our financial performance." Brandon said all employees had been notified early on that the plan was being amended so that all team contributions would be discretionary for this year.

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USA Today first reported Tuesday that payments have been stopped for the Bills' coaching staff.

Brandon, however, said the payments had been suspended for all employees. The Bills already had announced in March that while no layoffs were planned, all employees would take a paycut during a work stoppage as part of a series of cuts that focused on what the team called "shared sacrifice."

The news is the latest development in a series of cutbacks being made across the NFL during a two-month-old lockout that already has wiped out a series of voluntary minicamps and has the potential of disrupting the start of the regular season.

Larry Kennan, executive director of the NFL Coaches Association, said that to his knowledge, the Bills are the first NFL franchise to suspend pension payments for its coaches. In 2009, Buffalo was one of a handful of NFL teams to opt out of the league's pension plan to create its own after owners voted to make the existing supplemental retirement plan non-mandatory for the clubs.

After previously praising the Bills for establishing the best pension of any of the teams that had opted out of the NFL plan, Kennan criticized the Bills for suspending payments.

"It isn't right. It isn't fun. It's not that good of a deal to have to go through," Kennan told The Associated Press in a phone interview. "Anybody's who's taken a 25-percent paycut, and management just told them they're not paying any of your benefits until we see how we're doing financially, that's a shock."

Of his association's members, Kennan said assistant coaches will be the most affected by the team's decision.

"The head coaches and coordinators probably have a little wiggle room with their money, but maybe not because some of those coordinators have two or three houses they're paying mortgages on," said Kennan, a former assistant coach.

"They tell coaches, 'We're really important,' and 'We're management.' They talk about 'We' a lot," Kennan said. "And then the minute there's a little money crunch, they cut salaries."

Copyright 2011 by The Associated Press

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