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Former Bengal Ken Riley Wants Better Benefits for NFL Retirees

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Ken Riley
Ken Riley

Ken "The Rattler" Riley played corner back for the Cincinnati Bengals over his 15-year career. Nowadays, he works as a high school administrator in Polk County, Fla., where he receives health insurance. Health insurance that he's extremely grateful for. He's been fortunate in his life after football. He's fairly well off but he knows that others who played alongside him aren't so lucky.

"Look at it now," says Riley, 63, who survived three work stoppages as a player, including the 1982 strike a year after he played in Super Bowl XVI. "I can remember when we didn't have free agency, and now some third-string guy gets a million dollars. … It's gotten better, but we've got to get together, and I see a trend of that happening."

Riley has been keeping an eye on the Collective Bargaining Agreement negotiations between the NFL owners and the NFL Players Association in hopes that players who retired before 1993, like him, may receive a little help.

Of the many issues that the NFL and NFLPA have argued about in the last months, improving benefits for players who don't play anymore is probably not considered one of the main issues but, USA Today's Gary Graves, reminds us that NFLPA executive director DeMaurice Smith discussed it at length in a Feb. 4 news conference in Dallas.

He called for owners to set aside 2% of their profits ($320 million) for a legacy fund for retired players, a move that would share the burden with players. NFL counsel Jeff Pash countered with $100 million, illustrating another difference between the sides. "There are different avenues the owners could (choose)," said former defensive lineman Nolan Harrison, the union's senior director of former player services. "They've chosen to ignore them."

The current CBA expires Thursday night at 11:59 p.m.. If a deal is not struck before them, and it's doubtful that one will be, the owners can elect to lock out the players by Friday.