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Judge grants preliminary approval to revised concussion settlement

NFLPA Executive Director DeMaurice Smith looks on during the NFLPA Legends Brunch at the National World War II Memorial Museum on Sunday February 3, 2013 in New Orleans, Louisiana. (Aaron M. Sprecher/AP Images for NFLPA)
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NFLPA Executive Director DeMaurice Smith looks on during the NFLPA Legends Brunch at the National World War II Memorial Museum on Sunday February 3, 2013 in New Orleans, Louisiana. (Aaron M. Sprecher/AP Images for NFLPA)

Last week we told you about the revised, uncapped settlement package for damages related to concussions for retired NFL players that was agreed upon. Now Judge Anita Brody, who presides over league affairs, has granted this settlement preliminary approval.

Previously, there had been a cap of $675 million to damages for retired players related to head trauma suffered during their careers in the deal that was agreed on initially one year ago. Now that cap has been removed, and the NFL will pay out without restriction or limit based on the health of the individual former players.

"This is an extraordinary settlement for retired NFL players and their families — from those who suffer with neuro-cognitive illnesses today, to those who are currently healthy but fear they may develop symptoms decades into the future," plaintiffs' attorneys Sol Weiss and Christopher Seeger said in a statement.

“We are grateful to Judge Brody for her guidance and her thoughtful analysis of the issues as reflected in the comprehensive opinion she issued today,” NFL Senior V.P.-Legal Anastasia Danias said in a statement. “We will work with plaintiffs’ counsel to provide notice to the class and implement the settlement terms as provided in the Court’s order.”

Initally, Brody had rejected the initial settlement, worried that funds would dry out at some point. The deal is intended to last for the next 65 years from now, and yet both sides have estimated that the $675 million figure is about what the league will pay in compensatory claims for players with neurological symptoms, along with a previously allotted $75 million for baseline concussion testing and $10 million for medical research and education.

The league also would pay an additional $112 million to the plaintiffs' lawyers, if the deal is fully acepted, which would come out to a total payout of more than $870 million.

More than 4,500 former players have filed suit against the league for concussion-related claims, but all retired players now will have the option: accept the terms of the settlement, opt out completely or challenge it. Judge Brody must give the settlement final approval before initial payouts can be made, although it's not clear how long that process could take.

The NFLPA will consider this a strong victory for their constituents, even as DeMaurice Smith and the union sitll face critics who say that a billion-dollar industry is getting off lightly in perspective. Either way, a lengthy legal battle has been avoided for the players, and they in theory can start helping many of their former players get the care they need.

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Eric Edholm is a writer for Shutdown Corner on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at edholm@yahoo-inc.com or follow him on Twitter!

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