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NFL retirees suing again over benefits disputes

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A group of retired NFL players, including Hall of Famers such as Chuck Bednarik, are suing the league, the player's association and individual players such as New England quarterback Tom Brady over the issue of benefits for retired players.

The plaintiffs, who number 28 in all, filed on Tuesday a class action lawsuit in federal court in Minneapolis and are being represented by attorney Michael D. Hausfeld.

"Someone negotiated for the right of retirees who had no right to do so," Hausfeld told Yahoo! Sports. "Benefits that should have gone to retired players were sacrificed during negotiations for the interests of active players."

Before the league entered into a lockout this past winter over the terms of its Collective Bargaining Agreement (CBA), it had acknowledged to Hausfeld and the retired players that there were "deficiencies" in the current package. The Legacy Fund, which pays $62 million dollars per year to disabled players for each of the next 10 years, for a total of $620 million dollars, is at the center of this looming court case.

Annually, slightly more than half of the cost of the Legacy Fund is footed by the NFL, to the tune of $32 million dollars. The rest is picked up by the NFL Players Association (NFLPA) or the league again chimes in, meaning that the NFLPA pays no more than $15 million dollars a year towards the fund.

Hausfeld notes that this is a low contribution, given the $4.5 billion dollars in annual revenue split between the league and the NFLPA.

"The retirees want to find out what happened in the negotiations when the union was decertified.," Hausfeld said. "The remedy could be a lot of things based on what the discovery process turns out."

The concussion issue, which has drawn national attention through the story of retired players such as John Mackey, who has dementia linked to his NFL career, never came up during the CBA negotiations. Compounding the issue is that a large percentage of all vested retirees are pre-1993, when there was an explosion in NFL salaries with the signing of a new CBA to create competitive balance and parity. Those players are still dealing with less than adequate benefits, insufficient pensions and a labyrinth of red tape to get medical treatment for health issues related to their playing days.

Hausfeld said that the lawsuit will involve issues "greater than just the Legacy Fund."

He likens the retirees to wounded warriors "who risked their bodies in every game," Hausfeld said. "The retirees want to receive the care they've earned."

Kristian R. Dyer can be followed at twitter.com/KristianRDyer

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