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Players wanted $2 billion in concussion suit

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NFL players sought $2 billion in their concussion lawsuit against the league but settled for $765 million because much of their case was nearly dismissed, according to ESPN.

Players sued because they believed the NFL was concealing a link between football and brain damage. The case ended up in court-ordered mediation because the judge told players' attorneys that most of their case would be thrown out, a source familiar with the negotiations told "Outside the Lines."

U.S. District Judge Anita Brody told league attorneys that some of the case would probably survive, which could have exposed the NFL to possibly embarrassing disclosures that would create a public relations nightmare.

The settlement announcement came Thursday following seven weeks of haggling. It still has to be approved by Brody. About $675 million will go to former players and families of deceased players who suffered head injuries. The remaining $90 million will be used for baseline medical exams, research and education. After covering attorneys' fees of players, the league will end up paying close to $1 billion.

An attorney who represents dozens of players but was not directly involved in the negotiations said he was told that the league initially offered "peanuts" and that the proposed compensation was comparable to a "dog-bite" case. NFL spokesman Greg Aiello declined to comment.

At that point, Brody was prepared to cut out a large portion of the suit. The league had argued that some of the players were not eligible to sue under the collective bargaining agreement. Many of the nearly 6,000 former players and/or their families suing, who played from 1994-2010, would have been removed.

The remaining likely would have been older players most in need of assistance but would have had a more difficult case that the league concealed the connection between football, concussions and chronic neurodegenerative disease. The league did not form a concussion committee until 1994.

The timing of the settlement came largely because of a Sept. 3 deadline for both sides to report to Brody. While the league wanted to settle as quickly as possible, the players' attorneys feared that Brody would not allow an extension, which would have weakened their case.

Players' attorneys consulted with economists and actuaries to calculate how much money would be needed to cover the neurocognitive needs of retired players now and in the future. That is a difficult task given that there is a continuing debate about the science and the lack of knowledge about how prevalent neurodegenerative disease is in former players.

In seeking to reduce the amount of money to pay out, the NFL argued that a long case dragging out for years would essentially deny many of the former players from receiving help. Many of them need medical and financial aid.

Some players and their families criticized the $765 million settlement as too small to matter for an industry that makes nearly $10 billion per year.

If a significant number of players decide to opt out of the agreement, Brody can turn down the settlement or rule on the league's motion to dismiss the lawsuit.
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