On Thursday, NFL owners will complete their contributions towards the player benefits program for the 2010 season by paying $177 million. After that payment, the total amount funded for the program by the 32 teams in 2010 will be $245 million. Contributions from the owners have funded player benefits that include: group medical insurance, the pension plan, the disability plan, and the "88" program which benefits and assists retired players who suffer from dementia or other related conditions. A contributing factor that led to the lockout and the current stalemate in negotiations was future pension payments.
"NFL ownership is proud of the outstanding benefits that NFL players have enjoyed in recent years and the improvements that have been made for retired players," according to Carolina Panthers founder and owner Jerry Richardson, a former NFL player who co-chairs the NFL Management Council Executive Committee. "We have more work to do, especially for the retired players, and look forward to further improvements being part of the new NFL Collective Bargaining Agreement," he said.
NFLPA executive director DeMaurice Smith recently stated that contributions from the league to former player pensions was "zero," but the league countered by saying that in the past 10 years owners have contributed over $2.7 billion toward various NFL benefit plans for players that are either retired or currently playing. It would appear as if Smith needs to clear his thinking and recalculate his numbers.
Before talks collapsed between the NFL and NFLPA, NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell sent out a letter to every current player where he cited that players from "pre-1993" would receive enhanced retirement benefits. That was part of the last offer from the league.
"More than 2,000 former players would have received an immediate increase in their pensions averaging nearly 60 percent, funded entirely by the owners," Goodell stated.
This hold-up in negotiations should have been resolved before time ran out and a lockout began, but it would appear as if both parties are going to hold their ground and not let up on demands which is only going to cause this to drag on for far too long.