Copyright 2014 Collier County Publishing Company
All Rights Reserved
PHILADELPHIA - Calling it a "significant improvement" over an earlier proposal, a federal judge in Philadelphia granted preliminary approval Monday to the National Football League's second settlement offer to former players who sued the league over concussion-related health problems.
The move came six months after U.S. District Judge Anita Brody rejected the first deal put forth by the league. It opens the door for more than 20,000 of the NFL's potentially eligible retirees to pursue claims as part of the class-action settlement.
If the majority of players opt in, the deal could spare the league years of protracted litigation over allegations that its executives hid or ignored evidence that concussions can cause brain damage with long-lasting health implications.
The NFL has annual revenues approaching $10 billion, and critics of the deal have said the league is getting off lightly.
In an opinion released Monday, Brody cited the league's elimination of a $675 million cap on payouts to players with neurocognitive disorders as key to easing the concerns that led her to reject the first settlement proposal in January.
"The parties have satisfied my concern on this fundamental issue," she wrote.
Whether that step will be enough to convince dozens of players who have spoken out publicly against the settlement remains uncertain. Last week, seven former players, including former Philadelphia Eagles wide receiver Sean Morey and safety Sean Considine, signaled in court filings that they might opt out.