George Martin tells retired players that benefits are safe in 2011

As the NFL and the NFLPA compete for the hearts and minds of the league’s retired players and, in turn, the league’s fans, NFL Alumni president George Martin has sent a letter to retired players regarding the status of their benefits if/when the current labor deal expires in March.

“I know that retired players and their families are watching the current round of bargaining between the NFL and players’ union with growing concern,” NFL Alumni president George Martin wrote.  “They want to make sure that their benefits will be secure and uninterrupted, no matter what happens in those negotiations. I have discussed this matter with Commissioner Goodell on several occasions, and he has always assured me that retired player benefits will be protected, first in the uncapped year, and then if the CBA its expires.”

Martin also takes issue with the suggestion from the players’ union that benefits for retired players will terminate with the labor deal.

“I have seen the statements from NFLPA representatives that retirees will lose their benefits if the agreement expires,” Martin wrote.  “I am convinced that is not true, and have again asked Commissioner Goodell for his assurances on this point.  He was unequivocal and told me again that he as Commissioner, and the owners as a group, are committed to protecting and funding current retired player benefit programs.”

Martin’s letter then lists the commitments he has received.

“First, no matter what the status of the Collective Bargaining Agreement, the NFL clubs will continue to make all required contributions to the pension plan, will continue to pay in full all pension benefits earned by retired players, and will continue to accept requests from vested players to begin receiving benefits as provided for in the pension plan.

‘Second, NFL clubs will continue to fund the basic and supplemental disability plans, and the 88 Plan, and will continue to accept and process new applications even after the Collective Bargaining Agreement expires. In addition, the league has pledged to work with NFL Alumni to develop new outreach programs to identify retired players in need of assistance and to getting those players the help they need.

“Third, retired players will continue to receive post-career medical benefits as provided in the Collective Bargaining Agreement, regardless of whether the agreement expires.  Their medical benefits will continue on the same terms as today just as if the CBA were still in place.”

“Finally, the clubs will continue to support the activities of the Player Care Foundation, including assisted living, dire need, joint replacement, neurological, and other medical programs.  As the President and Executive Director of NFL Alumni, I will make sure that the NFL honors its commitments to retired players, and I will continue press both sides to agree to improvements in benefits as part of the next collective bargaining agreement.”

None of this will help the NFL and the union get a deal done, but it gives the NFLPA one less basis for stirring up former players against the league.