Technically, the window for joining the concussion settlement closed when Judge Anita Brody banged the gavel and approved preliminarily the plan for compensating retired players who have or who will develop, over the next 65 years, specific cognitive impairments.
But with the settlement still pending and amid a belief that neither the NFL nor the plaintiffs would quibble with adding players who retire before the settlement receives final approval later this year, any veteran player who has been cut should strongly consider calling it quits.
Some were cut because having them on the Week One roster guarantees their full 2014 salary, as a practical matter. Which means that, after the first game of the season, they may be able to find new homes. Even then, the option of playing for one more season at a low salary should be weighed against the long-term protection that would come from entering the concussion settlement, assuming that they can still qualify.
For players who have had lengthy careers, the decision becomes even more important. One of the major factors when it comes to receiving benefits will be length of NFL service; the longer the player played, the more he and his family will get if he later develops ALS or Alzheimer’s or other qualifying cognitive conditions.
The challenge for veteran players will be to do something that NFL players often don’t do — think about the future. The lure of one more season in the spotlight can be very strong, but the ability to obtain compensation without having to prove that the condition was caused by football should be even stronger.
And those who choose to retire, like linebacker James Harrison did Saturday, should immediately take steps to join the settlement.