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The Philadelphia Inquirer
The NFL and lawyers representing thousands of former players in a $760 million settlement of concussion-related claims on Monday filed an extensive outline on how victims of head trauma would be compensated under the terms of their agreement.
The 85-page road map, which still must be approved by U.S. District Judge Anita Brody, would offer as much as $5 million to each player who qualifies for top-level awards under a formula that would consider age, the number of seasons played, and whether injuries after retirement might have contributed to their cognitive disorders.
Maximum awards would go to players under 45 who played five or more seasons and require extensive treatment over their lifetimes for conditions such as Parkinson's disease or amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, better known as ALS or Lou Gehrig's disease.
Should Brody grant the plan a green light, every retired player will have several months to accept the settlement or opt out. Already, several former players - including former Dallas Cowboy quarterback Craig Morton, who filed a separate lawsuit last month in a federal court in California - have indicated they may take their chances in court.
"This is an extraordinary settlement for retired NFL players and their families - from those who suffer with severe neurocognitive illnesses today, to those who are currently healthy today but fear they may develop symptoms decades into the future," said Christopher Seeger and Sol Weiss, the lead attorneys for the players, in a statement.
An NFL spokesman said the league supported the proposal and would await further instruction from the judge.
Monday's filings come five months after the NFL first announced it had reached tentative settlement terms with the players that would spare the $9 billion-a-year enterprise from protracted litigation in thousands of individual suits.
More than 4,500 have filed claims in federal court in Philadelphia, alleging officials hid the dangers of repeated hits to the head, while mythologizing the violence of their sport.
Their ranks include Kevin Turner, an Eagles fullback from 1995 to 1999 who is now battling ALS and one of the faces of the class-action suit, and former Dallas Cowboys running back and Hall-of-Famer Tony Dorsett, who confirmed last year he had been diagnosed with chronic traumatic encephalopathy, a degenerative brain disorder.
Under the terms proposed Monday, former players would be compensated on a sliding scale.
A player under 45 who played more than five seasons in the league and now suffers from Alzheimer's would receive $3.5 million.
An 80-year-old suffering from dementia would get $25,000. Others with mild symptoms of dementia may be eligible for medical treatment but no monetary payout.
Players who opt in would be encouraged to share their medical records with researchers studying brain injuries in contact sports. Current and future NFL players are excluded from the agreement.
In total, the settlement would include $675 million to be paid directly to players with neurological symptoms, $75 million for testing on those who have not developed symptoms and an additional $10 million for research and education. The NFL, which admits no legal liability under the plan, would pay an additional $112 million in attorney's fees.
While players still could opt out of the plan, the proposal sets up disincentives for them to do so.
League officials maintain that disputes over injuries are covered by the NFL's contract with its players' union and should be settled in arbitration, not the courts. Players who forge ahead with their lawsuits risk seeing their cases thrown out.
But the prospect for litigation is just as risky for the NFL, which could be forced through discovery to turn over internal documents that could indicate what officials knew about the effects of repeated hits to the head and when they knew it.
Brody is expected to hold a fairness hearing on the settlement terms proposed Monday later this year.
"We look forward to finalizing this agreement so that players can soon take advantage of the programs it includes," Seeger and Weiss said.