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Pension change doesn't sit well with NFL coaches association leader

NEW YORK -- The executive director of the NFL coaches association is upset with the way the league has handled a change in assistant coaches' leaguewide pension plan.

The owners voted in March to make the pension, the 401(k) and the current supplemental retirement plan non-mandatory for the NFL's 32 teams.

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"We're most miffed that this happened with absolutely no advanced warning and that they were even discussing it," Larry Kennan told The Associated Press in a telephone interview Sunday. "If you ask any of the owners, coaches are really important to them. But we weren't important enough to keep in the loop. Tell us four or five months ago that we're thinking about that."

The change in the pension led to the retirement of longtime Indianapolis Colts coaches Tom Moore, the only offensive coordinator that quarterback Peyton Manning has ever had in the NFL, and Howard Mudd, who ran the offensive line.

"Howard and Tom are doing this strictly because of the pension," Kennan said, shooting down reports that the retirements were tied to other issues.

According to Kennan, nine teams -- the Arizona Cardinals, Atlanta Falcons, Buffalo Bills, Dallas Cowboys, Houston Texans, Jacksonville Jaguars, New England Patriots, New Orleans Saints and San Francisco 49ers -- have opted out of the program. Other teams might do so over the next few years.

All NFL coaches already have signed their contracts for the upcoming season, so no immediate recourse was available to Moore and Mudd.

"Maybe had we known those nine teams had opted out, we wouldn't have signed with one of them," Kennan said. "We felt really, really disrespected and betrayed."

There has been renewed talk of the coaches forming a union. In the past, the NFL has threatened to fire all coaches who joined a union.

"That's generally what has been said at different times when we brought it up," Kennan said. "We don't have a lot of options.

"Having a pension is a big deal. A lot of coaches are in the NFL instead of college because of the wonderful pension we have. For them to change it dramatically without any advanced warning is wrong."

There has been speculation that the NFL opted to change the pension-plan requirements as an offshoot of the owners opting out of the collective bargaining agreement with the players. Several coaches believe it is part of the league's overall strategy for negotiating a new CBA.

Copyright 2009 by The Associated Press

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