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League, union disagree over benefits for retired players

NEW YORK -- The NFL and its players union are in debate again, this time over benefits for the league's retired players.

Commissioner Roger Goodell said in a letter posted on the league's labor Web site Saturday that the NFL is committed to its former players, and that no new collective bargaining agreement will be made without improving things for them.

He also said the union's recent proposal to strike a new deal included no improvements for retired players.

Goodell's letter, dated March 9, was addressed to Rep. Linda Sanchez, a California Democrat, who recently asked the commissioner what the league was doing for former players.

"I have said publicly that there will be no agreement without improvements for retired players," Goodell wrote. "On the contrary, when the union last week informed us that it was willing to make a new deal under certain conditions, there was no mention by them of increased benefits for retirees. The union leadership was willing to make a deal without any improvements for retired players."

Goodell said the league proposed to the union several months ago a plan to reduce salaries and bonuses for rookies, and use the first $100 million of that to cover pensions and other benefits for former players.

"The union to this point in our discussions has not agreed to that proposal," Goodell wrote.

The NFLPA executive committee, holding its annual meetings in Hawaii, responded by releasing a statement on its site. It said "truth becomes a casualty" when it reads Goodell's letter because its plan is being labeled "disingenuous."

"Neither the NFL nor its NFL Alumni have decided to get into the real game to improve retiree pensions and give players more than five years of health care when they retire, if they are lucky enough to play four years," the statement said. "When will the NFL start paying the former players who built this game for the legacy it sells?"

Copyright 2010 by The Associated Press

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