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NFL Sends Letter to Retired Players

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On April 4, the president and CEO of the Green Bay Packers, Mark Murphy (who is also a former player for the Washington Redskins), and the owner of the Carolina Panthers, Jerry Richardson (who is also a former player for the Baltimore Colts), sent a letter to retired NFL players to further explain the deal they proposed to the NFL Players Association, which was rejected prior to the NFLPA's decertification.

On March, 11, the NFL Players Association -- which states that it represents players "past, present and future" -- walked away from the bargaining table, announcing it was giving up on its status as a labor organization, and sued the NFL in Minnesota. As retired players who are members of the owners' bargaining committee, we have a unique perspective because we understand these issues from all sides. More importantly, we understand the challenges former players and their families face.

The letter goes on to say that meeting with retired players and their families has been a high priority for NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell. It says that Goodell and others have developed a "constructive relationship" with many retired players in order to keep their interests in mind during the lockout.

The letter then went on to talk about George Martin's meeting with the NFL owners to discuss the need to increase pensions and retired player benefits. Martin also met with the NFLPA-Retired-Players-Group.

George Martin was invited to speak to NFL owners at our recent league meeting in New Orleans. He again stressed the need for increased pensions and other improvements for retired players. George also reported to his board and chapter presidents that his subsequent meeting with the NFLPA-Retired Players Group in Florida did not go as well. In a letter to his board, he described the atmosphere as "defiant, accusatory, and outright disrespectful."

The letter then turned to inform the retired players exactly what points were in their March 11 proposal that could directly effect them that the NFLPA turned down.

  • A new pension supplement for retired players aged 55 and above. This supplement would give more then 2,000 retirees an immediate increase in pension payments averaging almost 60 percent.
  • Improvements in the Disabilities Plans and the 88 Plan to ease the qualifications for disability benefits and increase the value of those benefits to qualifying retirees.
  • Expanded career transition programs to assist former players in developing second careers, both in and out of football.
  • A new rookie pay system that would re-allocate more than $300 million per draft class to fund benefits for current and retired players.
  • Then, possibly in an attempt to get retired players on the owners side of the drawn out argument, the letter states that owners will not stop funding retirees benefits during the lockout, saying, "But even though current players are locked out, the clubs will fully honor their commitments to you. You didn't cause this dispute, and you won't have to pay for it."

    Despite reports, the NFL owners will not change or reduce benefits to retired players during the lockout and if a player is currently receiving post-career medical benefits, they will continue to receive them. There will also not be any reductions in the disability plan or the 88 plan.

    The NFL also wanted players to know that they will maintain the benefits available through the NFL Player Care Program, which provides former players joint replacements, assisted living benefits, a discount prescription card, neurological and spine treatment programs, a Medicare supplement program and life insurance. All of these programs are primarily funded by the NFL Owners.

    The letter closes by stating that Roger Goodell and the rest of the owners are prepared to move back to the bargaining table immediately in hopes of ending the lockout and getting professional football back on track. They also want to let retired players know that they're here to help, saying, "Your voice needs to be heard, and we will listen."

    I feel reluctant to side with either side in this argument. After all, the owners are billionaires and the players are millionaires, how could we possibly relate with them? Still, the more I read and talk to other football fans, the more I strive to understand what exactly the players want in this deal. They claimed that they wanted better benefits for retired players and for the owners to pay more attention to the medical needs of those retirees. However, the NFL seemed to address those concerns in the offer made to the NFLPA before the lockout began.

    Is it true that the players only cared about their current paychecks like Bengals owner Mike Brown and NFL lead negotiator Jeff Pash believe? If not, what evidence proves that the players aren't looking for something more than larger paychecks? While I'm not supporting one side or another, I would like to see somebody other than the NFL owners support the group that the NFLPA claimed to walk away from the negotiating table on behalf of.

    What do you think?