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Retired players still waiting for invite to labor negotiations

MINNEAPOLIS -- Two weeks after they filed a complaint over their lack of involvement in the labor talks between the NFL and players, and as those talks appear to be gaining traction toward a new collective bargaining agreement, a group of retired football players sent the league a letter asking to be a part of the negotiations.

The letter was sent Thursday, and a copy of it was provided to The Associated Press by Michael Hausfeld, an attorney for the retired players.

In it, the players refer to a letter they received from Carolina Panthers owner Jerry Richardson and Green Bay Packers CEO Mark Murphy that said improving benefits and retirement plans were a "top priority."

"Richardson and Murphy admitted that 'some former players have struggled financially' and it was incumbent upon the League and owners 'to reach a new agreement' to provide the retirees with the well-being they earned," the retired players wrote.

A group of retired players, including Hall of Famers Carl Eller, Marcus Allen and Franco Harris, filed a complaint July 4 alleging that the NFL and NFL Players Association "have conspired" to set low retiree benefit and pension payments. They say the disbanded players' union doesn't have the right to negotiate for them and are pressing to have a seat at the table.

The owners and players have been meeting in New York this week to try to hammer out an agreement and avoid delaying the start of training camps or losing preseason games. Retired players haven't been included in those meetings.

Among retirees' chief concerns are improvements to their pensions and disability plans, neurological and spine treatment plans and more programs that help players transition from the NFL to other careers.

"Richardson, Murphy and the League stated 'these material improved benefits' were a 'top priority' necessary to enhance the quality of life of 'the people who made football great,' " the letter read. "To do so, they said, was the 'fair' and 'right thing' because it addresses the needs of retirees off the field for their having given so much 'on the field.' "

Retired players have long complained that current players don't make their needs enough of a priority, and asked the NFL to bring them into the negotiations, as Murphy and Richardson allegedly promised to do.

"We appreciate the League's recognition of our needs," the letter read. "Now it must recognize our voice in the negotiation of, and any agreement concerning, our rights."

Copyright 2011 by The Associated Press

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