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Court hearing set for Wednesday in player benefits case

MINNEAPOLIS -- The group of NFL retirees that was a part of the labor talks during the lockout last year has not given up its push for better post-career care.

The money the plaintiffs helped gain for former players was less than what they believe they were promised, and they're eager to argue their case in court.

"I'm going to fight 'em to the end," said Hall of Fame guard Joe DeLamielleure, one of 47 ex-players who signed on as plaintiffs in the lawsuit filed in federal court against the NFL Players Association. They've alleged the current players illegally overreached by determining the retiree share of the $10-billion-a-year business without them.

U.S. District Judge Susan Richard Nelson will hear oral arguments Wednesday in St. Paul, Minn., from both sides. The union has motioned to have the case dismissed. Spokesman Carl Francis said the NFLPA won't comment on the lawsuit. The union's response to the complaint was filed under seal.

Michael Hausfeld, the lead attorney for the retired player group led by former Minnesota Vikings defensive end Carl Eller, insisted his clients aren't trying to make a money grab. Eller said they've estimated between $300 and $500 million in additional benefits they were promised in the early stages of CBA talks and didn't get.

The NFL's new "Legacy Fund" is an additional $620 million carved into the new CBA to go toward pension increases. Current payments to retirees or beneficiaries were bumped up to at least $600 per month. Players over 55 already receiving pensions were given a benefit credit, an extra $124 per season for those accrued prior to 1975 and an additional $108 per season for those played between 1975 and 1992.

Overall, including the "Legacy Fund," an extra $1 billion was set aside in the new CBA to improve benefits, league spokesman Greg Aiello said.

Copyright 2012 by The Associated Press

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