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Union, retired players agree to $26.25 million settlement of lawsuit

Hall of Fame cornerback Herb Adderley is encouraged that the NFL Players Association has taken "an historic first step" in reconciling its long-standing rift with the old guard by settling a lawsuit with its retired players Thursday.

In a surprise move, the NFLPA reversed course by dropping its appeal and reaching a $26.25 million settlement with Adderley and thousands of other retired players who had successfully sued the union for cutting them out of lucrative marketing deals.

"I'm elated that this thing is coming to a close," Adderley told The Associated Press. "It's a great feeling, and I'm happy to be a small part of it."

NFLPA official George Atallah confirmed the settlement and said more details would be released during a Friday press conference in Washington. Adderley and union executive director DeMaurice Smith are scheduled to attend.

The settlement amount is close to the $28.1 million the NFLPA was ordered to pay after a federal jury in San Francisco ruled in favor of the players in November. The jury determined that the union failed to include retired NFL players in deals with Electronic Arts Inc., the maker of the "Madden NFL" video game, and other companies.

Adderley filed the lawsuit in 2007 on behalf of 2,056 retired players who contended the union failed to actively pursue marketing deals on their behalf with video games, trading cards and others sports products.

The NFLPA appealed the ruling in February, a move that further angered retired players, who already felt disenfranchised by the union and its previous executive director, Gene Upshaw, who died in August.

Smith was elected to take over in March and called addressing the rift with retired players a top priority -- and just as important as opening negotiations with the NFL on a new labor deal.

The settlement is the first concrete sign of a thaw between the two sides and an indication that Smith is prepared to chart a new course for a union that's entering a critical juncture.

"Herb and I both believe that this is an historic first step in that direction," said attorney Ron Katz, who represented the retired players.

"(Smith) put his money where his mouth is," Katz said. "We think (the settlement) is consistent with what 'De' Smith has been saying, 'One team, one locker room, one voice.' This is a real step to a reconciliation."

Adderley has noted a significant difference in dealing with the union now that Smith is in control.

"I'm very encouraged, because the other administration wouldn't return calls or listen to most of the retired players, including myself," Adderley said. "Let this be the precedent that sets the stage for all the retired players to come together, and hopefully, we can have the current players to come in with us and we have peace."

Adderley also expressed hope that the union's marketing arm, Players Inc., will begin working to secure new marketing deals in which former players will be duly compensated.

Katz said the settlement requires court approval, though he doesn't foresee any obstacles.

Adderley never expected a settlement to come so soon, especially after NFLPA attorneys threatened to take the case to the Supreme Court if necessary.

"We want to seek justice for all the guys. And we wanted to bring some harmony and peace with the current and retired guys," Adderley said. "And this was the only way we knew to do it, was go to court to get people to listen."

Copyright 2009 by The Associated Press

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