“My reaction is wait and see,” said retired Minnesota Vikings safety Paul Krause, 71. The Hall of Famer lives in Lakeville.

Jerry Holt •,

Former Vikings Jim Marshall, left, and Carl Eller are among more than 4,500 plaintiffs. A6

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Carl Eller - University of Minnesota Gophers football star and future Minnesota Vikings football star - Minneapolis Tribune photo 15 Sept 1962 by John Croft - for page C1 sports feature Fri 17 Nov 2000 on University of Minnesota Gophers football. Minneapolis Star and Tribune files. ORG XMIT: MIN2013082919255830

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NFL agrees to pay retired players $765M to settle concussion suit

  • Article by: KEN BELSON
  • New York Times
  • August 30, 2013 - 6:10 AM

The NFL agreed to pay $765 million to settle a lawsuit brought by more than 4,500 retirees, some of whom claim to have advanced dementia or other health problems, as well as the families of players who have died from what they claimed were the long-terms effects of head trauma.

The settlement, announced Thursday, will be seen as a victory for the league, which has nearly $10 billion in annual revenue and faced the possibility of billions of dollars in liability payments and a discovery phase that could have proved damaging if the case had moved forward.

The league has changed its rules to make the game safer and modified its medical protocols for concussions as mounting scientific evidence in recent years linked head trauma suffered on the field to long-term cognitive damage. Among the terms of the agreement is that the settlement is not to be regarded as an admission of guilt by the league.

“The settlement seems low considering the number of claimants and the severity of their conditions, but it also shows the uphill climb in proving the league was responsible for the players’ injuries,” said Michael LeRoy, who teaches labor law at the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign. “It changes the conversation and really lets the air out of the publicity balloon.”

The case was seen by many as a possible reckoning for the NFL, which has been stigmatized in recent years by the revelations that dozens of former players were found to have chronic traumatic encephalopathy, or CTE, a degenerative brain disease closely related to Alzheimer’s disease. It is believed to be caused by repeated head trauma. While the settlement closes a legal case for the league, brain trauma among players may continue to vex a sport that embraces violent collisions.

“Settlement on concussions not gonna make up for early death, forgetting kids name and rest of stuff that come w/brain trauma,” former NFL player Aaron Curry, who was not part of the suit, said on Twitter.

Lawyers for the plaintiffs were eager to reach a settlement because many of their clients have debilitating neurological problems that need attention. Without a deal, a legal remedy might have taken years, with no guarantee that the courts would rule in favor of the players. “The big picture was we got immediate care to the retired players, and I think we accomplished that,” said Christopher Seeger, a lawyer for the plaintiffs.

A court-appointed mediator helped the two sides reach the settlement; it now must be approved by Judge Anita Brody in Philadelphia.

The money would be used for medical exams, concussion-related compensation and a program of medical research for retired players and their families. The money, which may not be distributed for many months, will be available to all retired players with neurological problems, not just the plaintiffs. The NFL also agreed to pay legal fees for the plaintiffs’ lawyers, a sum that could reach tens of millions of dollars.

The pool of beneficiaries could be smaller or larger than the number of plaintiffs in the case, depending on how many retired players with neurological problems come forward. The settlement does not cover current players.

The settlement will include $675 million for players or the families of players who suffered cognitive injury. As much as $75 million will be set aside for baseline medical exams. A $10 million research fund will be established. Assuming Brody signs off, the deal could take about 180 days for the players to start receiving compensation, Seeger said.

Seeger added that the players would not have to prove that their health issues were the result of head injuries suffered in the NFL. Compensation will be based solely on a player’s age and years in the league. If the deal is approved, approximately half of the settlement amount will be paid over the next three years, with the balance issued over the next 17 years. “This agreement lets us help those who need it most and continue our work to make the game safer for current and future players,” Jeffrey Pash, the NFL’s executive vice president, said.

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