Retired players settled lawsuit now to sooner help those in need

By Bill Bradley, contributing editor

The biggest reason for a fast settlement in the retired players' concussion lawsuit against the NFL was to get help for ailing players as soon as possible, the players' lead lawyer said Thursday.

"This case has always been about securing the funds for former players and receiving the benefits as quickly as possible," Christopher Seeger, lead plaintiffs' attorney of Seeger Weiss LLP said in a conference call with the media. "The NFL expressed a genuine desire to help the former players and to get help to the hundreds of thousands of players who need it."

The NFL announced a $765 million settlement with more than 4,500 retired players in a lawsuit over concussions. The settlement, which was mediated by former U.S. District Judge Layn Phillips, must be approved by Senior U.S. District Judge Anita Brody in Philadelphia, who already said she is impressed by the agreement.

The settlement came relatively quickly, with Brody two months ago telling the sides to meet with Phillips to forge a deal before she ruled on the case in early September.

Seeger said the sides agreed to the settlement early Thursday morning, when they worked out key points of the deal. Those include:

  • Individual awards would be capped at $5 million for players suffering from Alzheimer's disease.
  • Individual awards would be capped at $4 million for deaths from chronic traumatic encephalopathy.
  • Individual awards would be capped at $3 million for players suffering from dementia.
  • Money would go toward medical exams and concussion-related compensation for NFL retirees and their families, and $10 million toward medical research.
  • Funds also would go to mentoring programs for youth players in teaching them the proper way to play.

The settlement came as a relief for former fullback Kevin Turner, who has been working on behalf of the plaintiffs with Seeger. However, Turner also has been suffering from ALS, which he is believed to have developed from brain injuries while playing football.

"It's been a struggle to get to this point," Turner said during the conference call. "I am very proud that the NFL has decided to stand up for all of the former players who have been suffering from brain injuries.

"There have been so many players before the sport was popular as it is today. So many played week in or week out but never got recognition as superstars. That's why this will help the players who are hurting. This will bring help today. The compensation will lift a huge burden from the men who are suffering and for their families."

While Seeger explained how the money will be distributed, he didn't elaborate how the health care will be provided. He did say he expected it to happen soon.

Seeger did say that thousands of former players -- whether or not they were part of the original lawsuit -- will be eligible for the health plan. To qualify, a player only had to play in the NFL. Also, this plan will not hinder a retired player from being eligible for other benefits due to him through the collective bargaining agreement.

The plan, which will be paid out over 20 years by the NFL, will adjust for inflation, Seeger said. And the funding never will dip below $50 million, he said.

"Former players won't have to prove causation; just be a retired former player and you're in the program," he said. "You can apply for the funds at any point, even years down the road.

"It's a faster and at a far, far greater rate than going through years of litigation. ... We wanted to get the help for these players now."

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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